VOLUME 13 | NO. 22 | 15-DECEMBER-2004
Unpaid vet pensions, benefits haunt Veterans Affairs Office
THE BIGGEST challenge now facing the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) is its increasing arrearages in the payment of pensions and other benefits to veterans.
This was disclosed by Commodore Rogelio Dayan, PVAO Administrator, in a briefing he conducted before members of the Committee on Veterans Affairs under Representative Tomas Dumpit (2nd District, La Union) last week.
Dayan said that as of 2003, PVAO arrearages stand at P6.16 billion, excluding the total administrative disability benefit of veterans which has never been paid since 1994.
In his presentation, the PVAO chief said the agency was created by virtue of Presidential Decree 01 which was issued on 24 September 1972. The PVAO is mandated to administer the benefits of veterans; provide hospitalization, medical care and treatment of veterans and their dependents; and oversee the administration and development of national military shrines.
The benefits due to veterans include old age pension, disability and death pension, total administrative disability benefit, educational and hospitalization benefits and burial assistance.
Accordingly, the PVAO, which is one of the five bureaus under the Department of National Defense (DND) is composed of three offices, namely the PVAO proper, which primarily administers pensions and benefits, Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), which provides medical care and treatment, and the Military Shrines Service.
Dayan said that as of October 2004, PVAO has a total of 259,914 pensioners.
He stated that the proposed budget of the PVAO for 2005 is P13.34 million, which is almost at the same level as the current year budget of P13.33 million.
The bulk of this amount (P13.06 million) goes to the special pension funds, which covers pension payments, he added.
Dayan lamented that the proposed budget is not adequate to cover all of PVAO?s pension obligations.
Aside from the non-allocation of funds for the payment of total administrative disability benefits, arrears are due in part to the late filing of claims and the shortfall in budgetary appropriations for the past several years, he explained.
In addition, PVAO?s inability to pay for the tuition fees of its student wards may result in the interruption of their studies, he said.
Rep. Jose Solis (2nd District, Sorsogon) said that considering the current financial difficulties of the government, PVAO must come up with plans or programs to pay its arrears other than through the General Appropriations Act or by other legislative solutions.
In reply, Dayan said the PVAO is looking into the immediate commercial development of the VMMC golf course with the help of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
However, he said the question of ownership over the property has been delaying the commercial development of the area. The National Housing Authority (NHA) is also claiming ownership of the land occupied by the VMMC and that it should have a share in whatever income derived from the commercialization of the area, he added.
Rep. Solis suggested the creation of a task force to study and undertake the development of the VMMC golf course area. He also proposed the lease and sale of some portions of the property to partially solve the financial problems of PVAO.
Meanwhile, Dr. Antonio Sison, director of the VMMC, informed the lawmakers of the problems related to the operations of the hospital. These, he said, are lack of medicines and reagents for laboratory examinations, inadequate equipment, very old infrastructure, and increasing patient load.l