May 30, 2004  (STAR) By Col. (Ret) Frank B. Quesada, Former Senate Committee Secretary, Veterans and Military Pensions; Associate, PMA’44  - Part II:  This is a continuation of the forum series, in reply to numerous request by veterans and their compulsory heirs about their expected benefits, etc.

Veteran LV: Will the equity bill be filed essentially the same, or will it treat everyone concerned equitably, without any discriminatory aspects?

Reply: According to both Reps: Filner [D-CA] and will file the new equity bill that would seek full benefits to all Fil-A.m veterans. I have asked for draft of the bill, however, it is not available.

However, a bill filed by Rep. (R-CA) R,. Cunningham, that seeks full equity payment of all Fil-Am WW-II veteran’s unpaid compensation and benefits is gathering support in the House of Representatives.

.Veteran E.F: I can not see how the step-by-step process under the piece-meal payment basis espoused by the ACFV can obviously satisfy the preponderant veteran’s majority, who demand full equity payment now.

Reply: If you are making reference to the infamous SSI bill that was un-popularly passed into law and was briskly passed into law that garnished huge savings for the U.S. government, but at the expense of the Filipino applicants [most of which are WW-II veterans], it was cashiered by a “loose cannons”in the ACFV, [a handful of wayward Filipinos that had no sanction and approval of the surviving Fil-Am preponderant veterans majority who merely went ahead on their own regardless of what were the negative consequences upon the applicants.

Therefore, the result, at present was disastrous to veterans and their families. The damage is done. And now there are very few who wanted to opt to return to the Philippines because of the cancellation of so many privileges veterans are enjoying while residing here.

Such consequences happen when those unauthorized group, who claim as instant experts in legislation have usurp the responsibilities of the proper and duly designated authority of the Office of Veterans Affairs [OVA]., as the only mandated to pursue all claims and benefits of Fil-Am WW-II veterans. Thus – the unpopular SSI bill passed because it did not require any new appropiation.

And the sole winner in that law was the U.S. government that secured huge savings, but at the expense of the Fil-Am applicants whose SSI grants and other privileges were cruelly cut.

Those who pushed this bill did not care whether the Fil-Am applicants [mostly veterans] were waylaid and disadvantaged. A little learning is a dangerous thing, so to speak.

There was very poor judgement on their part to misrepresent the preponderant majority, claiming that there would be 7,000 who would return to the Philipines, when it fact is not accurate and not true. There was so much grandstanding and fanfare while the Gospel truth was ignored and evaded.

The step-by-step process - was initiated by Rep. Gilman, with the concurrence of other legislators owing to the then supposed inadequate funds available under the criteria of the Congressional Budget Office. [CBO].

The effect of this slow and crawling process have placed the veterans who are sick, aging and dying - in a very unfair and discriminatory position, and while veterans see that there is a huge budgetary surplus reported by the then current trillion dollarssrplus being boasted by Congress. This does not square with the truth why veterans had been truculently discriminated.

Veteran G.I: How did the idea of government-to-government negotiation of legislative measures come into play?

As far as it can be traced, there were so many misrepresentations conducted by unqualified and unathorized parties like the ACFV and the Naffaa, who did not have the sanction or approval of the preponderant veterans majority of surviving WW-II veterans, and who have usurped the responsibilities of the Offierof Veterans Affairs (OVA) and competed against the duly established official lobby, which is the Office of Veterans Affairs [OVA], that has been recognized by the U.S. government.

Ever since 1947, the Philippine government has been the perennial official lobby for all Fil-Am WW-II veterans claims and benefits unpaid by the U.S. No one else.

Rep. B. Filner had received many complaints from his constituents in California, asking him why some perfidious groups were victimizing veterans, and were meddling in the veterans lobby. Filner, therefore recently announced in a veterans meeting n San Diego that his condition for filing the new equity bill would be to negotiate veterans legislative measures on the government-to-government negotiation basis in order to establish order and ward off any further confusion.

Rep. B. Gilman also have expressed the same concept of government-to-government lobby negotiation of lobbying legislative measures [ Ref. to his letter to J. Meligrito, etc.].

In-so-doing, it would therefore also clarify that US. Solons do not ask veterans any lobby money or anything of the sort. This concept was also relayed to the new head of the Office of Veterans Affairs, Lt. Gen. R. Urgello (Ret.) for his information.

It was also agreed upon by Gilman , and other legislators and Phil. Presidential Adviser, former Justice Manuel Pamaran, during his last visit with U.S. legislators - in an effort to establish a more orderly lobbying in Congress.

This concept there was hailed by the preponderant veterans majority of both in the Philippine and here [the surviving veterans and compulsory heirs of veterans because it would eliminate disruption and perplexity in the veterans lobby.

Veterans are tired and irritated about the destructive interference of the “loose cannons,” as individuals and parties going around undermining the official lobby, not to leave out exacting money from poor and indigent veterans.

Veteran R.Z: Is there any objection on the part of the Dept of Veterans Affairs [USVA] to a veteran’s bill?

Reply:. The U. Dept. of Veterans - as a matter of fact had replied to the letter of Cdr. Eddie Fisher, Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor [ West Coast chapter] stating that, and I qoute:

“We will not oppose any veterans bill for Fil-Am WWII veterans, as long as Congress funds it, ”

The Dept. of Veterans [USVA] as a matter of fact have been waiting for any law that would grant benefits to Fil-Am WW-II veterans, and would implement them accordingly.

In the case of the proposed S-1391 [ the bill filed by Sen. D. Inouye, and in accordance with Pres. Clinton’s last year’s requested allocation of $25-million for Fil-Am veterans for the next 5 years - the amount of $500,000 was expended for “outpatient care and services for Fil-Am veterans residing in the Philippines.”

Veteran C.O: What is the position of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor n the matter of the SSI bill passed into law?

Reply: I have passed on your query to Commander Eddie Fisher of the ADBC. And here is his reply, to wit:

“I am deeply troubled that the SSI law was viewed as a law that saved money for the U.S. government at the detriment and expense of the aging and sickly Fil-Am veterans - which is true.

“The SSI section on the law pertinent to the Fil-Am veterans was “rider” attached to HR-1802, the Foster Care bill. I am sure that we can agree that the 79th Congress must be held responsible for the sufferings they have inflicted on the USAFFE soldiers for the past 54 years.

“The SSI bill portion pertinent to the Fil-Am veterans was a brainchild of the ACFV, and they alone are the culprits and must be held responsible. A precedent has now been set. If the USAFFE veterans seeks laws to correct the misdeeds of the 79th Congress, for whatever they receive in the future, they must give back something they already have, “food stamps. Medicaid, etc.:

“ The only way the veterans living in the Philippines interest can be protected is through the Head of the OVA. No one else.”

In Fisher’s letter to Rep. B. Filner - he is disturbed by parties outside the loop of the OVA who have been creating so much trouble and who are victimizing veterans for money, to wit:

“What prompts me to write this letter to you is the stupidity of some veterans. I am referring to those veterans who want compensation only for those who became U.S. citizens. If they think that is the overall solution to the whole problem and their wishes are attached to the equity bill, make it worthless, and we are back where we started in 1946, the year when it all the problems began.

“Speaking for all members of the ADBC {Western Chapter], that I was able to poll, they agree with me that such selfish plot have no place in the equity bill.”

Veterans O.F: Why have the bills: HR-1594 and S-1391 with both same provisions (below) appear restrictive to those veterans here in the Philippines?

Firstly, let me quote the portions of both bills you are referring to:

“(2) Such benefits shall be paid only to individuals residing in the U.S. who is a citizen of, or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S”.

Yes, you are correct. Such provisions in the bills you stated have these restrictions. I can only say that, despite of the objections of the OVA and the veterans organizations, the prevailing mood in Congress is apparently with critical perception to Fil-Am veterans residing outside of the U.S.

The letter-writing campaign by the veterans under the wing of the National Advisory Council of Fil-Am WW-II Veterans [NACFAWW-II] in the U.S. which is the preponderant majority of WW-II veterans, along with that of the members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines [VFP] have protested against such provisions because it would leave out our comrades in the Philippines who are in the same situation. Corrections were strongly submitted.

Anyway, as it appears - the passage of both bills [HR-1594 and 1391] may remotely be taken up in this 106th Congress owing to the coming election year. This situation was expressed by both Filner and Gilman.

Thus - they both have promised to us that the new equity bill would be filed in the 107th Congress instead, which has a better chance, according to them.

Veteran L.M: Is it true that returning veterans to the Philippines under the SSI law could secure unlimited and unsecured bank loan from the Philippine Veterans Bank, according to those who have been pushing the SII law?

Reply: No this is not true. As a matter of fact, I have the explicit note of Col. Francisco San Miguel, the secretary general of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines [VFP] and concurrently a director of the Philippine Veterans Bank [PVB] clearly denying such misinformation coming from those who have lied to the veterans.

Veteran M.P: Why have I been denied application in Manila for naturalization as U.S. citizen by the INS being a WW-Ii veteran?

Reply: As of February 03, 1995 - applicants are no longer eligible to file application under Section 405 of the Immigration Act of 1990. Your application was dated after that cut-off date.

However, according to the INS, “it does not preclude you from filing a new application, with the appropiate fee, under some other section of the law that you feel you are eligible,” according to Harold E. Woodward, INS Officer in Charge in Manila.

I suggest that before you file a new application, that you first inquire from any INS office under what provision of what law you may be eligible. Otherwise, your effort maybe an exercise in futility. Do not pay any fees whatsoever beforehand.

# # #

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved