Question: What is the status of the federal lawsuit filed in October by Filipino World War II veterans over a 2009 law that granted veterans and their widows partial veterans’ benefits?
Answer: There are two lawsuits: one filed by Virginia attorney Arnedo Valera in San Francisco in October and another by San Francisco Bay Area attorney Eli Tomas III in June.
Both lawsuits challenged the government’s reliance on fire-damaged records.
The Department of Veterans Affairs used a federal registry of military personnel to determine eligibility. Millions of records in that registry were destroyed in a 1973 fire.
Tomas said in an e-mail that he represents 27 Filipino veterans and that the case was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong. No hearing date has been set.
Valera’s office did not respond to repeated e-mail and phone requests for information.
Valera’s lawsuit was the second filed last year challenging the government’s treatment of more than 200,000 Filipinos who were drafted by the United States and fought alongside Americans in the war, when the Philippines was a U.S. commonwealth.
An estimated 200,000 to 470,000 men from the Philippines served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Both lawsuits challenge a compensation plan enacted by Congress in 2009. A 1946 federal law passed by Congress, known as the Rescission Act, stripped Filipino veterans of pensions and other veterans’ benefits.
In 2009, Congress enacted the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act to give one-time payments to surviving Filipino veterans or surviving spouses. The measure provides $15,000 to those who became naturalized American citizens and $9,000 to noncitizens, most of whom are in the Philippines.
The 2009 law provided payments only to veterans who were alive when President Barack Obama signed the measure, and to the widows of veterans who died after the law took effect but before receiving benefits.
If a veteran died before February 2009, Valera’s suit said, his widow and other survivors would be ineligible for benefits.
Congress allocated $198 million for the compensation, which is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This update was written by Gregg K. Kakesako. Write "Whatever Happened to …," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail email@example.com.