FILIPINO veterans of the Second World War (WWII) were given six weeks starting Tuesday to submit their applications for benefits from the United States (US) government, US embassy said.

The US Embassy's Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) office in Manila cited that "all claims from Filipino WWII veterans for benefits created by the 2009 Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Arra) of 2009 must be received by the USDVA by February 16, 2010."

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"If sending the application by mail, veterans are encouraged to send the application early enough to ensure its receipt by USDVA by the February 16, 2010 deadline. Simply mailing the application by the deadline is not sufficient. It must be received by USDVA," the US Embassy emphasized.

The US Embassy said the new, one-time benefits are available to eligible veterans and widows of eligible veterans who applied before their death.

It said any change in the law to provide these additional benefits to other survivors would require new legislation in the US Congress.

Every application is handled expeditiously so that qualified veterans receive their payments as quickly as possible, the US Embassy added.

The embassy said that all veterans who feel they may be eligible are encouraged to apply immediately citing there is no "master list" of eligible veterans for this new, one-time benefit.

"The application process is free and simple, and there is no need to pay anyone to assist in completing the form, which can be mailed to the US Embassy," it said.

The Filipino World War II veterans can also submit their application in person to the USDVA offices at the US Embassy or may call the USDVA at (632) 528-25-00 or toll free outside Metro Manila at 1-800-1888-5252 for more information.

"No appointments are necessary to file an initial application for this new benefit," the US Embassy said.

Any Filipino World War II veterans are not required to submit multiple applications since they will be given an acknowledgement receipt from USDVA if they have already applied.

The US Embassy said outreach activities will be conducted in Cebu and Davao on January 14 and February 11, respectively, to ensure that all eligible veterans have an opportunity to apply.

The US Embassy announced that as of last December 29, the USDVA has approved the applications of more than 11,300 eligible Filipino World War II veterans or their widows and have been paid a total of nearly P6.4 Billion.

Approximately half of the nearly P6.4 billion in one-time benefits paid out so far has gone to Filipino WWII veterans with American citizenship and the other half to non-US citizen Filipino WWII veterans. (Bong Garcia)