Guam senators on Wednesday introduced a bill that would establish the process for local payment of war claims for the remaining 700 war survivors who did not receive compensation during last year's distribution.
Under Bill 130-36, qualified war survivors and their descendants as defined by U.S. Public Law 144-328, who have not been compensated by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, may receive a locally funded payment consistent with federal law.
Bill 130-36 was introduced by Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Republican Sen. James Moylan.
If enacted into law, the governor will have 30 calendar days to transmit an implementable plan for the payment of locally adjudicated claims to the legislature.
With the average individual claim being approximately $10,000, the measure is estimated to $10 million, the bill's authors said.
The previous measure passed by the 35th Guam Legislature resulted in the payment of more than 1,100 war claims funded by Section 30 money.
Should Congress act favorably on Muña Barnes’ Resolution 54-36, to reopen the filing period for the Guam Loyalty Recognition Act, local funds expended for this purpose may then be reimbursed.
More than 700 claimants or their descendants signed a petition to reopen the filing period.
“Our Greatest Generation should not be victimized twice, this is why I introduced this bill. The sacrifices of our manamko’ should not be devalued because they missed a deadline or misfiled the document with the wrong person," Muna Barnes said. "I know that we have urgent priorities for which every dollar can be used. But so long as we owe this debt to Guam’s Greatest Generation, we can’t give up."
“I am proud of Congressman San Nicolas’ work to deliver on a 30-year struggle for the people of Guam, but it cannot stop there. So long as one member of Guam’s Greatest Generation is disenfranchised by the process, we have more work to do," Moylan said.
"This is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing – it's just the right thing. I appreciate the vice speaker's efforts in reaching across the aisle to assure that the structure is in place to finalize this long-standing issue," he added.
Sens. Telo Taitague and Frank Blas, Jr. introduced their own version, Bill 129-36, which would create the Government of Guam World War II Survivor Claims Review Commission to adjudicate war claims requests that did not meet the federally imposed June 20, 2018 filing deadline established pursuant to the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. The proposed commission would comprise the public auditor, the governor, speaker of the legislature, president of the Mayors Council of Guam, and a member of the general public appointed by the governor.
The commission would have two years from the enactment of Bill 129 to accept, adjudicate, and issue awards to compensable victims or survivors of compensable Guam descendants.
Bill 129-36 would appropriate $6.4 million from Section 30 funds for war claims during Fiscal Year 2022 and FY 2023.
This is the same funding source the U.S. Congress identified for war claims that are approved by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States, which is the entity responsible for adjudicating war claims submitted in accordance to the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. “Bill 129 proposes a solution at the local government level to assist war survivors and descendants of survivors who did not submit their applications to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission on or before the June 20, 2018 deadline," Taitague said.
"While many others were able to submit their information, we must be understanding and compassionate to those who for reasons they alone can explain did not meet the federally imposed deadline. Whether it was due to a lack of information on the issue or time to compile their personal records – or because they weren’t emotionally prepared to relive the pain and suffering endured during World War II – Bill 129 intends to honor and bring peace and closure to our greatest generation,” she added.
“Bill 129 provides the opportunity to the survivors who missed the federal deadline to have their claims reviewed and adjudicated. Since we have been forced to use the Section 30 funds to pay for claims, we want to make sure that the money that was set aside is used to appropriately compensate our survivors who would have been made whole had they not missed the June 2018 deadline,” Blas said. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero welcomed Bill 130-36 but did not comment on Bill 129-36.
"I support Vice Speaker Barnes' bipartisan effort to fully recognize the pain and sacrifice of Guam's Greatest Generation. We know that at least 700 of our people missed the war claims deadline through no fault of their own--and now is the time to heal these longstanding wounds. Under this measure, we can pay those who have been disenfranchised in months, not years,” Leon Guerrero said.
“As the measure moves forward, I will ask that we specifically identify the use of Section 30 funds for this purpose. Doing this will ensure, with absolute clarity, that we turn the page on this painful part of our history. I want to thank Vice Speaker Barnes and Senator Moylan for their hard work and willingness to work collaboratively," she added.