The following is a news release from the Office of Congressman Michael San Nicolas:
While much coverage surrounds the news of an MOA to pay War Claims with local funds, many details are being left out.
The Government of Guam will get to pick and choose who gets paid. While nearly 1,500 claims have been adjudicated, the Government of Guam is only paying living claimants able to assign over their claims.
"We have no idea how many of the claims that have been adjudicated are actually of living claimants. While we all share in the desire to have everyone live to see this day, so many families are being left behind and that is not being said upfront; many will be heartbroken when they show up to the processing center on behalf of their deceased loved ones only to be turned away or informed they are not eligible locally," opened Congressman San Nicolas. "I just can't bear the thought of that. Closure for something like this should not be discretionary, and the entire MOA let's GovGuam pick and choose who gets paid," Congressman San Nicolas added.
The language of the MOA does not guarantee reimbursement to the Government of Guam for claims paid.
"Section 6 does not specifically reference the passage of HR 1365 as sufficient to reimburse the Government of Guam for paid claims," said Congressman San Nicolas. "The enabling Act in the 2017 NDAA does not have language to pay third parties and specifically limits payments to "a person" with no reference to third party entities like the Government of Guam," Congressman San Nicolas added. "Our team will seek to clarify this, and we hope it is not the case and HR 1365 is sufficient to close the loop, but if it is not, we will be transparent in re-stating our remarks in my Congressional Address that another Congressional Amendment after HR 1365 to reimburse the local government will not be able to gain traction in the Congress," said Congressman San Nicolas.
Additionally, the MOA states that the Treasury will be notifying all adjudicated claimants of their opportunity to assign their claim; however, no local process is set up to facilitate any requests from claimants residing in the States.
"The rapid progress of HR 1365 and the unanimous support thus far was due to the claims being a national issue, with our claimants in 46 States giving so much weight to passing the measure because they are constituents in other congressional districts," said Congressman San Nicolas. "To leave them out or not have a process in place for them to avail of a means to be paid is to leave behind the very claimants who have made all of this progress possible, and that is just so sad," Congressman San Nicolas added.
"Today is bittersweet. Yes, our manamko are dying, and yes we want them to be paid before they do, but to celebrate leaving behind so many is just too much to bear," said Congressman San Nicolas. "We should be humble and somber in our approach of this," Congressman San Nicolas added.
"We will do the work we must to close this by passing HR 1365 to make it right, and God-willing, soon," Congressman San Nicolas concludes.