A few days after Memorial Day, three Filipino World War II veterans who fought side by side with their American allies were “forced to sue the country they defended,” writes Atty. Lourdes Santos Tancinco in a column for Inquirer.net, a news wire based in Daly City. Tancinco, the chair of the San Francisco Veterans Equity Center, filed the suit (De Fernandez vs. VA, et al) against the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in federal district court in San Francisco The veterans say they were denied their equity compensation of $15,000 despite their service. These claims are provided by the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation [FVEC], part of the stimulus bill, which set aside $198 million for veterans’ benefits.

As they get older, the need to be paid for their service becomes even more urgent. The three plaintiffs in the case are 84, 88 and 91 years old.

“For many of these veterans, there is not enough time left. For some, time has already run out,” writes Tancinco. The case made front-page news in all the Filipino media in the United States, which have been strong advocates for the veterans.

The three are among an estimated 11,000 veterans whose claims were denied by the VA because their names were not found on the official list of veterans. Tancinco points out that a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Record Center destroyed the list, which contained 16-18 million military personnel files. In addition to the fire, some veterans declined to put their names on the list during the war because they feared the Japanese military could gain access to it, which could put their families at risk.

One of the plaintiffs, decorated WWII veteran Romeo de Fernandez, was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army as a prisoner of war, writes Cesar Nucum, Jr. for the San Francisco-based weekly newspaper Fil-Am Star. But in May 2009, his claim was denied because his name was not included on the list.

In his report for Balitang America, a daily newscast on The Filipino Channel based in Redwood City, Steve Angeles quotes Pete McCloskey, former congressman and a lead attorney for the case, who said, “There’s 200,000 men that fought in the Philippines and there’s precious few survivors, and for those survivors to suffer the indignity of what our Veterans Administration is forcing them to do is dead wrong.”

Angeles reports that for now, Filipino veterans can appeal the denial of payments by filing a notice of disagreement with the VA.