• War vets’ wishes remain unfulfilled

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    MOUNT SAMAT, Bataan: The list of wishes of veterans who served during World War II is still unfulfilled.

    Dioscoro Valenzuela, post commander in his hometown of Malolos (Bulacan) for the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, on Thursday said many surviving war veterans are yet to receive their full benefits.

    The 95-year old Valenzuela added that some relatives of deceased veterans have complained to the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) that they have not received burial assistance from the government.

    His hair and thin mustache white, he remains active and sprightly. The veteran often travels alone to Manila to work on veterans issues, commuting the 20 miles on buses and jeepneys.

    Like most elderly Filipinos, he relies on a large extended family. Valenzuela lives in an old concrete and wood house with the families of a married son, a married daughter and another son who is a widower like him.

    His monthly pension mostly goes to hypertension medicine and food supplements, he said.

    “[Now it’s] P6,700. In 2013, P1,700 was added to the P5,000 for what they call total administrative disability that you get when you reach 70. But tha’s not even enough for my medicines,” Valenzuela said in Filipino.

    Valenzuela, who served as a sergeant in the 31st Division, 32nd Infantry of the Philippine Army in Bataan, joined the call of his fellow soldiers in clamoring for better benefits and higher pensions.

    According to PVAO, it had requested an initial P27-million subsidy for the annual Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) coverage of 12,297 World War II veterans and 53,284 living spouses to augment the subsidies of P1,200 daily for hospitalization and special medical procedures.

    The Department of Budget and Management and Department of Health are studying subsidizing the amount through President Aquino’s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (Universal Healthcare) program.

    But, Valenzuela, who was in Bataan when the “Death March” commenced, said increase of the P5,000 monthly old age pension has not come.

    Currently, four bills in Congress are proposing P10,000.

    PVAO said it is supporting the move to give priority to older veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars, by increasing their pension to P20,000. Most of them are now in their 90s.

    There are pension arrears that have accrued because of delayed claims. Five bills are seeking alternative sources of funds, like the use of PVAO property.

    PVAO said the repeal of the total administrative disability (TAD) pension had been proposed through two bills because no funds had been appropriated for this.

    “For living World War II veterans, there are no more [TAD] arrears since these had been fully settled as early as 2013,” it added.

    In 2013, President Aquino authorized TAD payments of P2.877 billion to 17,817 World War II veterans from 1994 to 2002. This brought the payment of TAD arrears to P6.93 billion.

    Unpaid TAD obligations to deceased veterans, spouses and post-World War II veterans total P15.9 billion.

    PVAO said the war veterans also wanted the government to increase funeral, death, living assistance and educational benefits of up to P150,000 for widows and heirs of soldiers killed in action.

    As of March 2015, there were 186,396 pensioners, consisting veterans and their dependents, according to PVAO.

    In his speech during the same event, the President boasted of his administration’s efforts to uplift the lives of veterans.

    WITH ERNIE ESCONDE

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