Minority Affairs Committee Update May/June 2021

BY GUMERSINDO GOMEZ, CHAIR

On April 13 the veterans of the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment were honored with their own National Borinqueñeer’s Day. The FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law on January 3, contained an amendment commemorating that day in honor of the regiment and its veterans, as we do yearly for Vietnam veterans on March 29.

The day was celebrated in Puerto Rican communities through the United States and its territories. In Springfield, Mass., I organized a celebration in which we honored two living legends of the 65th: Antonio Morales, 97, who served during World War II, and Victor Rosario, 96, who served in the Korean War and took part in the Army’s last bayonet charge. Both gentlemen were presented with proclamations from the mayor and city council, as well as plaques commemorating their service.

The committee will continue to monitor its resolutions. The following resolutions are being retained:

MA-1 Language-Translated VA Benefits Material. VVA will continue its support for distribution by the VA of materials outlining benefits, programs, and adjudication guides in Spanish.

MA-2 Minority Affairs Coverage in The VVA Veteran. The committee submits a regular column and an annual report on its resolutions. In addition, it recommends feature articles covering the concerns of minority veterans.

MA-3 Asian American and Pacific Islander Veterans. VVA continues its support for the creation of an Asian-American and Pacific Islander working group in the VA. VVA further requests that a study be conducted by the VA on the social and psychological effects of military service on Asian American and Pacific Islander veterans who served in the Vietnam War.

MA-5 Foreign National Vietnam Veterans Immigration. VVA supports legislation to permit free entry into the U.S. of foreign nationals who served in the U.S. armed forces and who are Vietnam veterans seeking medical care for service-related disabilities, regardless of length of service. This legislation should also give disabled foreign Vietnam veterans eligibility for naturalization, irrespective of the current 24-month waiting period.

MA-6 Involvement by Minority Veterans Welcome in VVA. VVA continues its commitment to minority affairs programs by encouraging all veterans to become involved at all levels of the organization, and by encouraging VVA to work more closely with other minority veterans organizations. VVA will devote staff and resources to continue a long-range, comprehensive Minority Affairs program directed at recruitment, education, and involvement. The Minority Affairs Committee will monitor the program adopted by the Board of Directors.

MA-7 Puerto Rican Veterans and U.S. Virgin Islanders. VVA renews its commitment for the continuum of health care and VA services to veterans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and their families, and to increase awareness of the availability of these services.

MA-8 Recognition of the Services and Sacrifices Made by the Veterans of the Territory of Guam and U.S. Pacific Islanders. VVA recognizes the contributions made by the veterans of Guam and commends and salutes the veterans of Guam for their contributions during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, VVA strongly supports the improvement of veterans benefits and health care provided to veterans of Guam and other U.S. Pacific Islanders.

MA-9 Awareness and Sensitivity to Racial, Cultural, and Gender-Related Equity Issues. VVA will promote diversity forums and seminars as part of a training program at all levels, especially during the National Leadership & Education Conferences and National Conventions.

MA-10 Self-Determination for Puerto Rico. VVA supports legislation whereby the U.S. Congress would define the political status options available to the citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Rico to decide the island’s political status.

MA-15 Korean American Vietnam War Veterans. VVA supports Korean American Vietnam War veterans in their legislative efforts to gain access to the VA health care system, especially for the diagnosis and treatment of Agent Orange exposure and other illnesses, including PTSD treatment and education.

We will be supporting a new resolution coming from New York City Chapter 126, Resolution PR-4. to authorize VVA to support H.R. 5590, the Korean American Valor Act. This bill grants VA health care benefits to South Korean Vietnam veterans who served in Vietnam from 1964-73 and are now American citizens. These veterans need access to health care benefits diagnosis and treatment for all illnesses related to their service in Southeast Asia.

I would like to thank the committee members who have been there with me, encouraging and supporting me as we confront the issues facing us during this difficult pandemic time.


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