November brings a time to reflect and give thanks as we celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. We remember the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen who are serving and the veterans who have served our country. This history of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) service dates back almost two hundred years to the last battle of the War of 1812 where Filipino sailors, or “Manilamen,” under Jean Baptiste Lafitte came to the aid of General Andrew Jackson to defend New Orleans from the British invasion.
Since then, thirty-one AANHPI soldiers and sailors have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the most recent were Japanese American WWII veterans honored in 2011. Military service is a proud tradition of AANHPI men and women that has continued to this day. For more information on AANHPI veterans, view our new fact sheet.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we are constantly working to improve access, promote benefits and services, end the claims backlog, and end homelessness among all veterans. The VA Center for Minority Veterans strives hard to actively conduct outreach and encourage every eligible veteran to fully utilize benefits and services they have earned based on their military service.
The following are a few examples of recent VA initiatives and events that have had a direct impact on AANHPI veterans:
- In 2012, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki hosted an AANHPI roundtable that gathered high-level VA officials, other federal leaders, and community advocates in discussions on access to health care, access to benefits, data collection, and outreach.
- VA collaborated with the White House Initiative on AAPIs, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Records Administration to increase transparency and provide a thorough accounting of the process to verify valid military service for Filipino World War II veterans. This Interagency Working Group effort marked the first time all organizations involved in the verification process were brought together to examine the process from start to finish, which culminated in a set of findings .
- In Guam, VA recently opened a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) on the perimeter of the Naval Hospital property. VA partnered with the Naval Hospital in Guam to provide inpatient, specialty, ancillary and emergency room services for eligible veterans on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. In addition, VA is providing assistance to officials in Guam as they attempt to make improvements to their veterans cemetery.
- The VA Pacific Islands Healthcare System (VAPIHCS) conducts a consistent variety of outreach activities which encompass the service catchment area of the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.
- The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans submitted its annual report to the Secretary and Congress. The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans is currently comprised of 12 members, four of whom represent the AANHPI community.
- VA collaborated with AANHPI-serving organizations to increase the recruitment of AAPI students in internship programs.
VA is honored to serve AANHPI veterans, their family members, and their survivors. To learn more about the Center for Minority Veterans, visit our website.
Ron Sagudan is the Asian American Pacific Islander Veteran Liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs.