FORT KNOX, Kentucky - Brig. Gen. David K. MacEwen, The Adjutant General of the Army, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, testified on Capitol Hill Nov. 20 to defend the integrity of the Army's service verification process in respect of Filipino World War II veterans."The Department of the Army has been requested to establish a different process for Filipino veterans to prove their service. I sit before you today, as has been the case with Army adjutants general over many years, with great confidence knowing that the Army's process of verifying Filipino Army service is sound and adequate," he said.MacEwen appeared before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs regarding eligibility verification under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Jon Runyon, R-N.J.In question were supplemental service benefits authorized by Congress as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which established the FVECF to issue one-time payments to eligible Filipino veterans who fought with American troops during World War II."The FVECF was established to compensate and thank these veterans who served so bravely alongside the American Army in the South Pacific in World War II," said ranking minority member Dina Titus, D-Nev. She expressed the concerns of some Filipino veteran constituents who had been denied benefits.
In a submission to the committee, Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc., stated that more than 4,500 appeals are presently before the VA and the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the denial of recognition of service."FVEC compensation benefits should be granted to deserving claimants based on alternative documents provided by other U.S. official government sources," said Lachica.MacEwen explained the historical development and integrity of the record-keeping process to the committee."For the three years post-WWII, 1945-1948, the Filipino government worked in conjunction with the U.S. Army to establish guerilla and Philippine Army unit rosters, and to capture relevant service data," he said.At the time, the Army approved 260,000 of the nearly 1.3 million requests for recognition of Filipino service reviewed, MacEwen said."The people on the ground after the war, both American and Filipino, conducted years of research, interviewing commanders and leaders at various organizational levels, and gathered and stored massive amounts of authoritative documents. They turned over every stone possible and imaginable to leave us with the system and documents we use today," he said."Changing the service verification process by accepting non-verifiable service documentation for Philippine Army and guerilla veterans may result in a significant number of faulty service verifications. Second-guessing what is already in the record is neither reasonable nor feasible, as we cannot conduct better research than what was conducted in the years immediately following the war by the individuals actually on the ground at the time," MacEwen testified.Those records remain the key to making fair, adequate and auditable service determinations today, he said.Since 1998, the records have been located at the National Personnel Records Center, a part of the National Archives Records Administration. They consist of nearly 10,000 cubic feet of claims folders, 30 cubic feet of Philippine Army rosters and 15 cubic feet of guerilla fighter rosters, among other records amassed after the war, said MacEwen."NPRC reviews its holdings to authenticate service determinations previously made by the Department of the Army," testified Kevin Pratt, assistant director for military records for the NPRC."On multiple occasions since the establishment of the FVECF, officials from the Department of the Army have visited NPRC, reviewed its technical instructions, examined its work process, and confirmed that NPRC was providing reference services consistent with the long established policies and practices," said Pratt."Although the NPRC actually executes the hands-on work to verify service, they do so in accordance with procedural guidance established and maintained by the Army," said MacEwen."The issue of service verification has remained constant over the years. The Army has spent significant time and resources to continually review our service verification policy. Though we have complete confidence in the final service determinations already made, as with any other Army program, a review or study is periodically conducted to ensure that we are in compliance with the spirit and letter of applicable laws and regulations," he said.To date, the established review process has resulted in the eligibility verification of thousands of applications. According to Brad Flohr, senior adviser for compensation service with the Veterans Benefits Administration, 18,929 payments totaling $225,668,204 have been made to eligible veterans and their survivors.