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Fil-Am Vets Ask VA Sec Nicholson to Resign: Group rallies in front of VA Clinic in LA

by Justice for Filipino American Veterans(JFAV) Monday, May. 21, 2007 at 8:40 AM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

About 20 Filipino World War II veterans and their supporters rallied in front of the Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic in Los Angeles on May 8 to ask for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson. The protest occurred after last week’s Associated Press report that said Nicholson paid bonuses of up to ,000 to senior federal workers amidst a billion shortfall in the VA budget.

Fil-Am Vets Ask VA Sec Nicholson to Resign: Group rallies in front of VA Clinic in LA

Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES -- About 20 Filipino World War II veterans and their supporters rallied in front of the Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic in Los Angeles on May 8 to ask for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson.

The protest occurred after last week’s Associated Press report that said Nicholson paid bonuses of up to ,000 to senior federal workers amidst a billion shortfall in the VA budget.

“We are here to protest the mismanagement and the performance of Secretary Nicholson,” said Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, using a bullhorn in front of the VA clinic.

“The VA [clinics] here is overworked, understaffed, they are being overwhelmed by the number of returning veterans and here secretary Nicholson gave hefty bonuses of .8 million to his closest assistants in Washington D.C.”

Franco Arcebal, a Filipino WW II veteran, and the vice-president for membership of the ACFV, said this is the same head of the VA department that testified last April in the Senate that they have no money for the Filipino WWII soldiers.

According to a House Committee of Veteran’s Affairs press release, it says VA officials miscalculated the needs of returning veterans but awarded themselves “significant bonuses.”

“This nation’s veteran’s health care system is strained to the breaking point,” said the statement. “I do not understand how an under funded agency has the resources to award a generous bonus package of .8 million to its employees at the same time it shoulders a backlog of 600,000 claims and asks veterans to wait months for necessary medical care.”

However, the AP report quoted a VA representative saying the payments are necessary to retain hardworking career officials.

"Rewarding knowledgeable and professional career public servants is entirely appropriate," said VA spokesperson Matt Burns.

Lachica said the House Committee of Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will ask Nicholson to testify in the next coming weeks about the bonuses.

Members of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) also attended the event.

The rally is also part of a national coordinated event to keep pressure on Washington to support the Filipino Equity Act bill in the House and Senate.

Lachica arrived from San Francisco the day before where they held the same rally and protest for the resignation of Nicholson in front of the VA regional offices. In the next couple of weeks, ACFV plan on gathering more support and momentum from Fil-Am WWII groups in San Diego, Washington D.C., Seattle, New York, and Chicago.

“We need to especially build it up here in California again,” he said.

California is going to be the most important state in the rally for the passage of the Fil Equity bill. Chair of the House Veterans committee Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and US Senate Appropriations Committee member Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) both represent California.

“Rep. Filner said we have to find the money [for the veterans],” said Lachica. “Well, he can get the money if Sen. Feinstein backs him up.”

He suggests that the appropriations committee will try to find an estimated to million a year or roughly 0 a month for each Filipino WWII veteran in the US and the Philippines.

Regarding the progress of Fil Equity bills in the House and Senate, Lachica said the bills were moving well.

He said the House is postponing their vote on the Fil Equity Act until the Senate can come up with the money.

“We are cautiously optimistic and realistic that we can get a major victory by the end of June,” he said.

Until then, Lachica and his group are going to continue to hold demonstrations and rallies across the US for the Fil Equity Act.

“That’s why all of these rallies, demonstrations, visibility campaign are crucial because we want to keep the issue on the front burner politically in congress,” he said. “The chairman of the veterans committees can only do so much unless they have public pressure and this huge blunder of Nicholson dramatizes the unconcern of the VA. We just need to be more aggressive.” (www.asianjournal.com)

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