On JFAV Lobby in the US Congress
July 18, 2015
On JFAV Lobby in the US Congress
By Al P.Garcia
“I have worn out two of my best Florsheim shoes while walking from office to office talking to US Congressmen but it’s like talking to a wall.”
That’s how Veteran Enrique Dela Cruz Sr of Los Angeles. described their lobby works in the US Congress in the 1990’s. Mr. Dela Cruz passed away but his fellow veterans and their advocates are still lobbying in the US Congress 22 years and counting.
For Arturo Garcia , the National Coordinator of the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) ; “It was our turn to wear out our shoes and rub our legs tired in walking the tunnels, hallways of every floor of the different US Congress buildings.
And yes, there are interconnected tunnels below the US Congress that connects the buildings to the Capitol) and the stairs in going to offices to offices on both the House of Representatives (HOR) and the US Senate when we started lobbying in 2011.
One youth lobbyist was amazed and even thought that these Congress tunnels are right from the book of Rowlings “Harry Potter” and really look like the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts combined.
“Despite the hardships of walking and talking, cajoling and convincing the US Representatives in the House and the Senators to recognize the remaining 25,000 Filipino World War II Veterans, we run into many smart alecks among their staff.
One staffer from a Midwest State even said,” If we recognize Filipino Veterans then a lot of other veterans like Hmong, Laotian and even merchant marines will follow suit.”
“And with that topic as an opener, we have to explain that Filipino Veterans are not mercenaries from a regional war like Vietnam. They are different because the Philippines was a former colony of the US and Filipino fought in World War II, And that’s a World War”
Almost all JFAV lobbyist and Garcia cannot help laugh off the ignorance of some of the congressional staffers.
“Lobbying is tough, like pulling teeth. I cannot blame these staffers maybe because they don’t study their history and talked with us without any research. That’s how hard is lobbying work.” Garcia added.
There are 435 Congress people and 100 Senators and most of them are very young and did not even know World War II except those who served in the US military. To think that we must get 50% plus one to pass a law, That is our biggest problem.”
The JFAV aim to pass the Filipino Veterans Recognition Act of 2015 which very time-sensitive, urgent and necessary only highlights the gravity of JFAV’s
Garcia smiled at the thought of the big job of educating this new generation of lawmakers. and congressional staff members. ” It will really test your patience and enhance your creativity in dealing with them. It requires extra effort.” Garcia explained.
“ Even during the 30 minute audience with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Administration (DVA), Robert McDonald who spend time in the Philippines as an Executive of the Procter and Gamble last June 29 at his spacious office at the 9th Floor of the DVA Building in Washington DC, we were deeply surprised on their very scant knowledge about World War II and the Filipino veterans.” Garcia added.
They were surprised when we brought up the issue on the lump sum appeals of more than 4,000 veterans still pending with the DVA Appeals Board. Only 4,000 out of the 25,000 Veterans filed whose appeals were denied by the DVA.
“As if they don’t know the data that even come from their office They even died it at first but later admitted the fact..” MS. Bernie Ganon, one of the JFAV
The DVA Secretary even feigned sympathy to the group led by Ms. Bernie Ganon who father was a World War II veteran. He said in the end of the meeting,” I understand your situation, 70 years is too long for you to get your compensation.”
“ But all it’s not hopeless. JFAV has been lobbying the US Congress for more than 22 years and we were able to get some benefits from the US Congress. The Black Caucus and the Asian Caucus of the House have been supportive of our lobby efforts.
The good news is that Last June 13, 2015. Rep, Jackie Speier just filed again for the third time the Filipino Veterans Recognition Act of 2015 at the US Congress . The Bill will repeal the Rescission Act of 1946 ad will give full monthly military pension to the remaining 25,000 Veterans and 60,000 widows.” Garcia explained.
An LA journalist who covers the Congress commented.” “I am amazed at you Filipinos, you won’t go away.” Garcia answered,”Yes, we wont’ until our Veterans are recognized and got their benefits, we won’t go away.”
“Hope spring eternal. And as long as there is somebody standing for the Filipino Veterans and Widows and for our community, we will remain firm and will fight for Veterans and widows equity and recognition till hell freezes over. “Garcia exclaimed.