POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 9, 2010
Filipino World War II veterans and widows of those who already have died are suing the federal government over benefit payments that they say are inadequate and discriminatory.
The suit was filed against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in San Francisco federal court yesterday.
It claims one-time payments of either $9,000 or $15,000 given to the Filipino soldiers or their survivors are a pittance compared with what other veterans receive.
Congress approved the payments last year.
The suit demands compensation equal to what other veterans receive, including a pension and health benefits.
About 250,000 Filipinos fought alongside American troops against the Japanese during World War II. Congress promised them pensions but later reneged.
"I don't know how this can ever be corrected," said Geminiano "Toy" Arre, president of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu. "If they claim it's insufficient, nobody would argue. The fact that they tried to rectify it, we're thankful for it."
Arre, who spoke by phone from the Philippines yesterday, said there have been concerns about the adequacy of the compensation, but the veterans he has spoken with were "just thankful to receive some compensation for services they provided the United States."
But the lawsuit raises some serious concerns.
"What I'm afraid of is this suit might derail the efforts that are already in the pipeline," Arre said.
He cites as one example a unification bill that would unite veterans living in the United States with their spouses and children.
"If I'm in Congress, I would ask, 'What's next?'" he said.