had served with and every award they had earned.
McCloskey, who fought in the Korean War, said he would have trouble
proving he served.
Because the wheelchair-bound de Fernandez is not on the
Missouri List, he was denied the $15,000 that each Filipino veteran was
supposed to receive this year. In 2009, Congress set aside $198 million,
expecting to compensate 18,000
veterans under the 2009 Filipino Veterans Equity
Compensation law. Attorney Stuart Gross said
Congress underestimated the number of applicants. By Feb. 1 of this
year, 35,700 former soldiers filed. Of those, 12,500 received lump sum
payments and the remaining applications have either been rejected or are
Filipino veterans must accept these lump sums
because they are not entitled to pensions. A 1946 bill signed by
President Harry Truman appropriated $200 million to the Commonwealth Army of the
Philippines with the condition that service in the Commonwealth Army no
longer equated to service in the U.S.
"I should receive this because I am an American citizen," de Fernandez said.
Added Lourdes Tancinco, another attorney for the plaintiffs, "It's not the money that's important to him. It's his dignity."
De Fernandez was
rejected because of his missing record. But another veteran at the press
conference, 88-year old Valeriano Marcelino, was rejected even though his name is on file. He was told by Veterans Affairs that his loyalty is suspect; the sticking point is a check allegedly signed by Marcelino from the Japanese Imperial
Army. Marcelino said he had never seen the check until then.
In order to prove their allegiance, Gross claims, the veterans are asked to
provide two disinterested parties who can vouch for their actions during
Finding two people who are neither friends nor family and
who can also attest to the soldiers' motives and day-to-day actions 60
years ago and across the globe is a "burden of proof they can't overcome,"
Gross said. "It's not only arbitrary. It's incredibly offensive."
McCloskey said Veterans Affairs head Eric Shinseki is a "pretty good guy" and blames the ordeal on bureaucracy holdups. He hopes a court order will knock a sense of urgency into the department.