Franco Arcebal put his life on the line fighting the Japanese in the Philippines for the United States in the 1940s. In exchange, Arcebal and other Filipino World War II veterans were granted the same veterans’ benefits that U.S. soldiers received under the G.I. Bill in 1944.
Just two years later, however, the United States reneged on the promise of benefits, and Filipino veterans have been fighting to regain them ever since.
Over the years, survivors were granted U.S. citizenship, burial rights, health care and disability benefits. Finally, in February 2009 Congress appropriated $198 million in compensation for the group, ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 per person.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has received about 41,000 applications for the money, more than double the number anticipated. Decisions have been made on about 21,000 claims; over 12,000 of those have been approved.
Arcebal, now 86 and living in LosAngeles, is among thousands still waiting for decisions on their applications. So far the VA has distributed $146 million.
“These veterans have been waiting for these benefits for a very long time—more than 60 years. Now that the money is there, there may not be enough,” Arcebal says.
Veterans Affairs representatives say they have increased staff to handle the volume of applications and are committed to delivering timely benefits.
Michelle Diament is a frequent contributor to AARP Bulletion and AARP Bulletin Today.