THE US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) will accept all claims for benefits from Filipino World War II veterans until February 16, 2010. 

These one-time payments were made available when the 2009 Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was passed by the US Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in February 2009, to recognize the service of qualified veterans.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

The one-time benefits are available to eligible veterans and widows of eligible veterans who applied before their death. 

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. 

As of December 29, USDVA has approved the applications of more than 11,300 eligible Filipino WWII veterans or their widows; these qualified veterans and widows 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 WW II veterans.

Individuals unsure of their eligibility are encouraged to apply regardless of whether they can submit full and complete military service documentation.

All that is needed is the signed application form. If further military or other documentation is needed, USDVA will make arrangements to obtain the necessary documents or USDVA will write the claimant advising them of the additional information needed.

There is no “master list” of eligible veterans for this new, one-time benefit.  Each claim is unique and decided on its own merits.  All veterans who feel they may be eligible are encouraged to apply immediately. 

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. 

Veterans are encouraged to send the application earlier, if sending the application by mail, to ensure its receipt by USDVA on the February 16, 2010 deadline.

Veterans can also submit their application in person to the USDVA offices at the US Embassy.  Veterans can call USDVA at (632) 528-2500 or toll free outside Metro Manila at 1-800-1888-5252 for more information about this option. No appointments are necessary to file an initial application for this new benefit.

Veterans who have already applied for this one-time benefit will receive an acknowledgement receipt from USDVA. There is no need to submit multiple applications, nor any need to obtain additional military service information unless requested by USDVA.

USDVA will have a team of representatives to take Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation claims at the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) at Camp Aguinaldo from Monday February 8, 2010 through the February 16, 2010 filing deadline.

USDVA staff will be available from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm at PVAO on those days. No appointment necessary.

USDVA's offices at the US Embassy will be open to the public from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm to take Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation claims on Monday, February 15, 2010. No appointment necessary.  The remainder of the U.S. Embassy will be closed that day for a U.S. Holiday, President's Day.

USDVA will also have representatives standing by to take phone calls about the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation benefit on Monday February 15, 2010. VA telephone representatives will be available from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm and can be reached by calling 528-2500 within Metro Manila or toll free at 1-800-1888-5252 outside Metro Manila.

VA Assistant Director Rick Johnson will lead a USDVA Outreach Team to Davao City on February 11, 2010 to accept Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation claims from Veterans in that region, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Rizal Park, in front of the City Hall of Davao City.

Application instructions for the one-time benefits are on the U.S. Embassy website: (US Embassy PR)