Chasing Happy Opinion Column by Adelle Chua
The general’s new cause
Manila StandardManilaAntonio Taguba
was born in Sampaloc, Manila in 1950. His father, a Cagayan native, was a soldier who had fought the Battle of Bataan and survived the Bataan Death March
during World War II. The family migrated to Hawaii when the boy was 11.
That boy eventually joined the
United States Army, which he served for 34 years. The high point of his career
came in 2004 when, as a general, he was stationed in Kuwait . The Army needed somebody of at least a two-star rank to probe
the alleged abuse and torture suffered by detainees in the hands of the American personnel in the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq
. Taguba stepped up to the challenge.
The general and his team reviewed
photographs taken and conducted interviews with the people in Abu Ghraib. They obtained written confessions from some of the
suspects, statements provided by detainees themselves and some witnesses. What the team found was appalling. More popularly
known as the Taguba Report,
military inquiry article 15-6 concludes that “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were
inflicted on several detainees” and that these acts were “systemic” and intentionally perpetrated.
These acts included torture,
rape, sodomy and homicide, all intended to demean the detainees' persons.
The Taguba report created a
stir long before “ Guantanamo
” and “waterboarding” became household names. By saying
that the abusive acts were systemic, Taguba implied that these things had the authorization, or at least the tacit permission
of the higher-ups in the military. Pentagon officials naturally were not thrilled with the report—especially since it
had been leaked to the media. An article at The New Yorker written by Seymour Hersch and published on June 25, 2007 (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/06/25/070625fa_fact_hersh) tells us about Taguba’s encounter with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in May 2004, the day before the latter appeared in a
Congressional hearing on the scandal.
“Here . . . comes . .
. that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. Speaking to the New
Yorker, Taguba described his former boss: “He [Rumsfeld] was in denial.” Rumsfeld said he did not know about such
conditions sooner but Taguba was incredulous: the pictures were there for Rumsfeld to see all along.
But the high point of Taguba’s
career was also the start of his downfall. In June 2004, Taguba was ordered back to the Pentagon headquarters, to work in
the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs (where
he could be”watched closely,” he was told), when in fact he was up for rotation to Fort MacPherson in Georgia.
It was then he realized his career was over. Still, he reported for work faithfully every day, serving “at the pleasure
of the President.” And then in January 2006, the Vice Chief of Staff
of the Army called him up and told him he would be retired by January 2007. No reason was given for his hastened retirement.
The new commander-in-chief,
President Obama, has made promises about stopping the US ’ interrogation “techniques”. He has signed an
executive order that would close the Guantanamo facility in Cuba next year
even as questions remain on what to do with its present occupants.
This year, retired General Taguba
joined human rights organizations in asking Obama to create a commission
to investigate abusive practices in US prisons—and have some people accountable for them. Taguba also wrote the preface
to Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by the US by Physicians for Human Rights (http://brokenlives.info/?page_id=23).
Now that Taguba has retired,
he has more time for other things. Presently he serves as chairman of the advisory committee on minority veterans at the United States Department of Veterans
Affairs. Given his—and his father’s—history, this cause is another close to his heart.
In my column of March 9 this
year (A tribute to war heroes), I wrote about my interview with the administrator
of the Philippine Veterans
Affairs Office, Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, soon after the US
economic stimulus plan— which included a $198-million provision for
Filipinos who fought alongside Americans during World War II—was signed into law. Veterans who have since become US
citizens are entitled to a lump sum payment of $15,000 while non-citizens can claim $9,000.
I have since received two e-mails
from a reader, Maria Elizabeth Embry, based in Antioch , California
who advocates Filipino veterans’ welfare. Embry’s
latter e-mail to me was a forwarded message from General Taguba himself, asking for help to disseminate information about
the progress of veterans’ claims per information from the veterans affairs
I reprint part of the forwarded
The Center for Minority Veterans
is now providing updates on the claims status of WWII Filipino Veterans.
This data can be found at http://www1.va.gov/centerforminorityveterans/
As of Sept. 1, 2009, 31,876
claims have been received. The initial benchmark for the number of eligible applicants was estimated at 18,000 Filipino
WWII Veterans. In addition to these claims, the Manila Regional Office has received more than 4,400 duplicate or incomplete
As of the same date, 8,990 applications
have been processed through the first four and a half months since processing began: 3,414 approved for non-United States
citizens, 3,138 approved for Filipino Veterans with US Citizenship, and 2,438 applications disapproved. There are 22,886 pending
VA continues to conduct numerous
successful outreach programs to inform veterans and their families about this benefit. This aggressive outreach
will continue as FVEC claims may be submitted until Feb. 16, 2010. VA is unable to predict the volume of additional claims
and is unable to predict a future processing completion date. The Manila RO has established a dedicated team of employees
who solely process FVEC claims. To date, over $77 million has been awarded to eligible Filipino veterans.
Two options are available to
claimants who do not agree with a VA decision. The first option is to provide VA with evidence that may lead VA to change
the decision. The notification letter will clearly identify any potential missing evidence the claimant should provide in
order to substantiate their claim. The second option is to file a notice of disagreement (NOD), in writing, explaining
the reasons for disagreement.
Once an appeal is received,
the claimant will be provided hearing options to include a video hearing or a face-to face hearing at the nearest regional
Due to Privacy Act provisions the list of applicants and claimants are not subject to public disclosure.
As a reminder, applications
must be submitted no later than Feb. 16, 2010.
5,000 US war veterans got lump sum
MANILA, Philippines – Some 5,500 Filipino World War II veterans have received their
lump sum benefit from the
US Department of Veteran s Affairs (USDVA) just six months after the implementation
of the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act of 2009 or the Stimulus Bill, an official from the Philippine
Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) said Thursday.
In an interview during the Filipino World War II Veteran’s Assembly held
at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City , PVAO Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina said that a total of 34,000 living World War II veterans applied for the $198 million lump-sum benefit
for Filipino veterans who fought alongside US troops during the war.
“The total is about 5, 500, including those
in the US because some of them have already become US citizens and are living in the US . But they (US citizens) are very
few, about 20 percent while 80 percent are here in the Philippines ,” Carolina said.
Application for the lump sum benefit began February
18 this year and is set to end February 16, 2010.
Carolina said that qualified veterans have started
receiving their lump sum benefit of $9,000 for Filipino citizens and $15,000 for those with US citizenship since April 8.
However, he said, the allocated budget by the
US government would be enough.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro,
Jr. said that at least 1,000 applications of veterans have been denied due to “insufficient proof” that they volunteered
during the war.
“Their affiliation or proof of service is
unsubstantiated. You know, you need some proof,” Teodoro told reporters in a separate interview.
Also, 7,000 more applications are still in the
pipeline waiting for the approval by the team from the USDVA while some 20,000 or more former guerillas are expected to apply
until the deadline on February 2010, Carolina said.
Carolina said that the number of applicants is
nearly double than the projected 18,000 to 20,000 living war veterans eligible for the benefit and are included on the Missouri List which is a list of names
of war veterans who volunteered during the war.
Nevertheless, Carolina said that the $198 million budget
will be enough for all veterans adding that even those not included in the Missouri List would also be given the lump sum benefit
as long as they have “strong proof of service” like documents which would prove their service in the US army during
World War II such as affidavits from
their commanders or fellow soldiers.
“They ( US ) think that they will still
have excess from their budget because most of the veterans have already died. This group, their average age is 85 years old
and up, and they die at the rate of 10 each day. So that’s 300 a month,” Carolina said.
More war vets seek US payment
By Christian V. Esguerra
MANILA, Philippines — The number of Filipino
war veterans seeking a piece of the $198-million lump sum payment from the United States has ballooned to more than
31,000—almost double than the expected 18,000 claims.
Despite the numbers, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday encouraged other veterans to continue filing their claims.
“We must beat the Feb. 16 deadline next year for the filing of all claims,”
she said in a speech during the Filipino World War II Veterans Assembly
in Camp Aguinaldo .
Ms Arroyo said she was
assured by the US Veterans Administration that it would speed up the processing
of claims, with no less than USVA chief Eric Shinseki saying his office
was ready to add more personnel to attend to the applications.
Filvets' claims for WWII benefits reach 31,876
JOSEPH G. LARIOSA, GMANews.TV
| 07:43 PM
CHICAGO – The number of claimants
for the lump sum benefits granted to Filipino World War II veterans under
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has now exceeded the original 18,000 benchmark.
Out of the 31,876 claimants, 8,990 applications
have been processed through the first four-and-a-half months since processing began, according to statistics released by the
United States Department
of Veterans Affairs (USDVA).
Of the processed claims, 3,138 were approved
for veterans with US citizenship, 3,414 were approved for non-US citizens, and 2,438 applications were disapproved. There
are 22,886 pending claims.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act, Filipino WWII veterans who are now US citizens are entitled to a benefit of US$15,000. Non-US citizens are entitled to
This information was posted in a mass e-mail
by R. Sonny S. Sampayan, a retired US serviceman, quoting Ronald Sagudan, program analyst of the USDVA’s Center for Minority
Sagudan, along with retired Gen. Tony Taguba, chair of the advisory Committee
on Minority Veterans of the USDVA, and Lyn Johnson of the New York
City MVPC, has reached out to the Filipino community to help find every veteran, who may be qualified for VA benefits before
the February 2010 deadline.
As of August 19, Jim Benson of the media
relations office of the USDVA told this reporter that as far as he knew, no claims have been denied claimants who died after
filing the claims.
According to the USDVA, in addition to
the 31,876 claims it has received, the Manila Regional Office has received
more than 4,400 duplicate or incomplete applications.
Retired Brigadier General Felix Pestana
recalls his ordeal during the infamous Bataan Death March. Read more about
his experience: Still waiting for benefits, RP war veterans recall their ordeals
The USDVA said it has been conducting numerous
successful outreach programs to inform veterans and their families about
Claimants have until February 16, 2010
to file their claims. USDVA is unable to predict the volume of additional claims and is unable to predict a future processing
The Manila RO has established a dedicated
team of employees who solely process FVEC claims. To date, over $77 million has been awarded to eligible Filipino veterans.
A budget of $198 million has been allocated for these benefits under the new law.
The Philippines is home to the only USDVA
regional office located outside the United States or its territories.
There are two options available to claimants who do not agree with a USDVA decision.
The first option is to provide VA with evidence that may lead VA to change the decision. The notification letter
will clearly identify any potential missing evidence the claimant should provide in order to substantiate their claim.
The second option is to file a notice of disagreement (NOD), in writing, explaining the reasons for disagreement.
The time frame to file a notice of disagreement is one year from the date of the notification letter explaining the reasons
and basis USDVA used to make their decision.
USDVA encloses a VA Form 4107, "Your Rights
to Appeal Our Decision," with Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund notification letters to help explain appeal
rights to claimants.
Once an appeal is received, the claimant
will be provided hearing options to include a video hearing or a face-to face hearing at the nearest regional office.
Due to Privacy
Act provisions the list of applicants and claimants are not subject to public disclosure. - GMANews.TV
Purging Japanese collaborators from Pinoy veterans list delays payments
KATIGBAK STAR Washington bureau (philstar.com) Updated August 24, 2009 12:00 AM
– Compensation payments to Filipino World War II veterans for their
wartime services to Uncle Sam are being held up by a purge of Japanese collaborators from their ranks and bureaucratic problems,
US and Filipino officials said.
“All claims are initially processed
in Manila, since it must be first determined that the claimant did not work
with the Japanese during World War II,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate
Veterans who are naturalized US citizens
are questioning why their applications have to be processed in Manila when their names are already inscribed in the Revised
Reconstructed Guerrilla Roster (RRGR) kept at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis , Missouri
Veterans advocate Maria Elizabeth Embry of California,
in a letter to Senator Feinstein complaining about the delay in payments,
said the purge was unnecessary since all veterans had been subjected to loyalty investigations by the US military before their
names were inscribed in the so-called Missouri List.
Since the US Veterans Administration began disbursing lump-sum payments from a $198-million compensation fund
for Filipino veterans in April about 7,000 claimants have been paid $70 million, Jon Skelly, regional director of USVA Manila,
“In the history of the VA it
is quite possible no law or new benefit program has ever been implemented as quickly as this one,” he said in a telephone
conference with Filipino veterans in Washington complaining of long delays in the processing of their claims.
stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17 provides for a one-time payment of $15,000
for Filipino veterans who have become naturalized US citizens, and $9,000 for those living
in the Philippines .
Officials estimate about 12,000 eligible
veterans live in the Philippines and 6,000 are in the US but applications received already exceed the 30,000-mark and more
are pouring in.
The sheer volume of applications,
lack of staff and the added burden of ensuring no Japanese collaborators benefit have led to delays in the processing of claims
and many veterans now in their late 80s fear they may run out of time before getting their due.
The American Coalition for Filipino
Veterans, a Washington-based advocacy group suggested a separate “express
lane” processing team at USVA Manila be created to approve well-documented applications from Filipino veterans who are
These veterans have certification
letters from the Missouri records center, hold US passports and VA hospital identification
cards and their compensation applications could be fast-tracked.
The “USVA bible” in determining
eligible claimants is the Missouri List, compiled after the war in 1945 from records on brown paper bags, the back of letters,
sales receipts, court documents, school forms, ledger book papers, evaporated milk can labels, and similar items.
Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office
of Veterans Affairs
of the Philippine embassy in Washington , said after the US Army left in
1948 with the Missouri List the Armed Forces of the Philippines continued
to sign up late registrants into its own list.
He said about 33,000 veterans back
home receive pensions from the Philippine government but if they are not in the Missouri List it is unlikely they will receive
USVA hopes to pay off by February
2010 all Filipino veterans who can rightfully claim they served Uncle Sam during the war but the deadline may not be met.
To speed up the processing of claims,
USVA Manila said it has added 18 people to its staff. Also, the staff at the NPRC qualified to verify the Missouri List has
been increased from one to eight.
FilAm war vets lament delays in equity checks
First Posted 09:38:00 08/18/2009
Editor’s Note: Reprint of article written
by Jun Medina of FilAm Star and sent through email by Esther M. Chavez, INQUIRER.net’s U.S. Director of Sales
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The passage in February
of the “equity compensation” legislation brought so much hope and rejoicing for thousands of Filipino World War
II veterans who, for decades, had lobbied for recognition for their war-time services to the United States.
Six months later, most of these veterans, now
in the late 80s are still waiting for the one-time, lump-sum compensation which went with the recognition of their military
“I’ve been waiting to receive a check
in the mail for a while now, but nothing,” sighed Franco Arcebal of Los Angeles in a phone interview with FilAm Star. “I’m
getting a bit anxious because I hear some of our comrades have died before getting their benefits.”
The 87-year-old Arcebal, vice president for membership
of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, said that at the rate the checks are being processed and paid by the U.S.
Veterans’ Administration, it could take “at least another 18 months for us to get paid.”
Arcebal, who filed his claim on Feb. 21, said
he has tried calling the 1-800 USVA number to check on the status of his claim, without success.
“I tried calling but all I get is a recording
and I don’t even get to talk to anyone after waiting for a long while,” he said in a phone interview.
Arcebal’s frustration was understandable,
said Gen. Delfin Lorenzana (ret), head of the Philippine Embassy’s veterans’ affairs section here, who had the
same experience while contacting USVA Manila on behalf of some veterans.
Lorenzana said he had a hard time getting through
when he called Manila to inquire about the claims of Metro
DC veterans who had solicited his help.
“I was told that for privacy reasons, I
can’t represent the veterans. Only their next of kin – spouse or children – are allowed to do that, and
that’s understandable,” Lorenzana said.
He said, however, that the free phone provided
for such follow-ups is sometimes not working, adding that the elderly veterans would find it hard navigating the system.
Lorenzana added that trying the Internet link
supplied by the U.S. Embassy website in Manila for claims
verification does not seem to work either.
“In fairness to the USVA Manila staff, I
think that the system is just being swamped by too many claims that they may not have anticipated,” Lorenzana said.
“We have raised the veterans’ concerns and USVA Secretary Eric Shinseki has graciously promised us that he would
do something about the problem.”
He noted that as of July 21, the USVA has processed 8,300 claims and approved 6,800.
The rest were disapproved because the claimants were not qualified, based on payment guidelines set by law.
Filipino-American WWII vets still await payment
By Rosemarie Bernardo
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug
Hundreds of Filipino-American World War II veterans
in Hawaii waiting for lump-sum payments are frustrated over
delays caused by a staff shortage.
Members of the WWII Filipino-American Veterans-Hawaii
Chapter are calling for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to accelerate the process, saying months has passed after they
were expected to receive their checks.
"We are losing hope," said President Art Caleda.
About 550 veterans in Hawaii had
filed claims as of June. Of that figure, 15 veterans
who suffered wounds in battle have received their payment, but the remaining are still waiting.
According to Caleda, a representative from the
VA told them checks were to arrive in June. When the checks did not arrive, veterans were told it would take another six to
A staff shortage at the National
Personnel Records Center
in Missouri, where personnel verify whether the U.S. citizen filing a claim is a veteran, is one of the main factors causing the
delay, according to officials now working to increase personnel.
The population of Filipino-American WWII veterans
has dwindled over the years. About 30 veterans in Hawaii have died since February. "The long process is ridiculous,"
said Caleda. "The veterans cannot wait."
GMA may cut short US trip
By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington bureau (The Philippine Star) Updated August 02,
2009 12:00 AM
In the afternoon she held meetings with Senators
Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka to thank them for their efforts in the payment of benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.
also met Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Filipino veterans wrote
to Mrs. Arroyo earlier to complain about “the slow approval process and unacceptable delays” in payments to surviving
veterans and to intercede on their behalf
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
delayed is equity denied’
WWII veterans seek Obama’s help
By Jun Medina, Special Correspondent
War II veterans have appealed to United States President Barack Obama to expedite the processing
of the equity benefit claims of thousands of veterans, some of whom had died without enjoying their one-time lump-sum payment.
Patrick Ganio Sr., national president of the American
Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV), wrote in a July 26 letter to Obama that only 10 percent of claims
have been paid so far by the US Veterans Administration to the
Filipino veterans for their military service.
“This situation is truly unkind to sickly
Filipino WWII veterans who have patiently waited for decades. Regrettably, more than a dozen have died in the United States without receiving their final recognition,”
Ganio said, adding “equity delayed is equity denied.”
He cited a wire report that of some 500 applicants
from Hawaii , only eight or 1.6 percent have received their
Ganio cited the case
of a Filipino veteran in Orange County , California , who was personally decorated for his bravery in the Battle
War II by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
The veteran had died and was buried on July 6 without receiving his equity benefit.
Another veteran from San Jose , California , received his check of $15,000 a
few days before his burial.
VA Media Relations
Shinseki Meets Philippine President Arroyo 9:39 AM 5KB
Shinseki Meets Philippine President Arroyo
Friday, July 31, 2009 9:39 AM
"VA Media Relations" <va.media.relations@VA.GOV>
Recent VA News Releases
To view and download VA news release, please visit the following
Secretary Shinseki Meets with Philippine President Arroyo
(July 31, 2009
) - The status of benefits to Filipino Veterans
of World War II
was a prime topic recently when Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
met with Philippine President Gloria
long-standing ties to the Philippines, with many U.S. Veterans
living in the islands," Secretary Shinseki said. "Our partnership
the Philippine government enables us to ensure these Veterans receive
the benefits they have earned."
partnership between the Department
of Veterans Affairs
(VA) and the
Philippine government was recently enhanced when VA implemented a law
a cash payment to Filipino Veterans who aided American troops
in World War II. The payments came through the American Recovery and
, which authorized $198 million for one-time
Under the provision, VA is paying claims of $9,000 for non-U.S. citizens
and $15,000 for Filipino Veterans
who are U.S. citizens. VA's Manila
Regional Office has received
more than 25,000 claims and has paid out
approximately $56 million so far.
Shinseki expressed his appreciation to
Arroyo for the support her
government's Philippine Veterans Affairs Office
gave to VA's Manila
office in their joint outreach to eligible
Veterans in the weeks
following the law's passage earlier this year.
VA recently donated a new $800,000 CT scan
machine to the Philippine
government's Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon
donation is one in a series of medical equipment donations and facility
upgrades worth $5.5 million
since 2003 that the U.S. Government has made
to the medical center.
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