SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Filipino veterans of World War II, including survivors of the Bataan death march, claim the Department of Veterans Affairs stiffed them for years of service because their names did not appear on the government’s “Missouri List.”
The list was created in 2009 by Congress, which allocated one-time payments of $9,000 to Filipino veterans who are not U.S. citizens, and $15,000 to those who are citizens. Many of the Filipino veterans were “conscripted” to serve, according to the federal class action.
The so-called Missouri List was part of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Veterans Equity Center sued the VA along with three named plaintiffs who fought in the Pacific Theater, seeking their one-time payments of $9,000.
Lead plaintiff Romeo de Fernandez, 91, enlisted in the U.S. Army’s Philippine Division in 1940, and helped defend Manila against the Japanese.
“After the United States army’s capitulation, [he] was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and was forced to walk the infamous Bataan Death March, suffering from the well-noted atrocities along the way,” Fernandez says.
His claim for benefits was denied because his name did not appear on the Missouri List. But he says The Veterans Administration records center acknowledged that the record of his service probably was destroyed in a 1973 fire.
Valeriano Marcelino’s name did appear on the list, but the VA told the 88 year-old veteran that his claim could not be processed because the VA thought someone with the same name might have collaborated with the Japanese.
Although the VA acknowledged that this charge “‘could be the result of a record-keeping problem,'” it asked that Marcelino provide it with the names and addresses of people who could confirm his whereabouts from 1941 to 1945.
Marcelino says that’s an unreasonable request, given the 60 years that have passed since his service. The VA’s implication that he collaborated with Japan has caused him additional anguish, he says.
The veterans say that until 2009, their military contributions have been largely ignored by the United States, which eliminated benefits for Filipino soldiers through the Rescission Act of 1946.
Though four-fifths of the 80,000 soldiers who defended the Philippines from the Japanese invasion were Filipino and many were taken prisoner with the fall of Manila, the class claims, “This country responded to those sacrifices with a slap in the face and a cold shoulder for almost sixty-five years, before delivering a final gut shot through the false hopes created by the FVEC and the arbitrary and insulting procedures through which it was implemented.”
The class demands a permanent injunction prohibiting the VA from denying Filipino World War II veterans compensation based on the absence of their names from the Missouri List, and from refusing to accept alternate proof of their military service, and from questioning their loyalty. They are represented by Pete McCloskey with Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy.