Virginia, 27 Aug 2021, ZEXPRWIRE, As the first person to be put in charge of the Office of Redress Administration (ORA), Robert K. Bratt played a big role in helping Asian Americans get the reparations they deserved. Bratt recently discussed his time with the program in an interview.
The mass removal and confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II still stands as one of the darkest moments in US history. And soon after the end of the war, various groups started working towards helping the people affected by the government’s actions the apology, compensation, and restitution they deserve. While these efforts were undertaken by a variety of different interest groups and organizations, they are collectively referred to as the Redress Movement, and their efforts culminated in the creation of the Office of Reddres Administration (ORA) in 1988.
The ORA was created after Congress approved the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which determined that those affected by the internment camps and other forms of race-based discrimination made by the federal government during the war would receive a national apology and an individual payment of $20,000. The issue then became tracking down all the individuals who were eligible for reparations. The ORA was created to track down and verify potential claimants, a process that was started with Robert K. Bratt in charge of the organization.
Bob Bratt took over the ORA in 1988 as the first administrator to be put in charge of the organization. As such, he played a massive role in building the organization, putting in place the structures and procedures that would be used throughout the ORA’s 10-year life-cycle to help give affected Asian Americans the reparations they needed.
In an interview, Bratt explained the effort that went into tracking down and verifying survivors. “We went to federal services, Social Security Administration. We went to state DMVs. We did multiple searches to confirm our findings. We didn’t even have the Internet. Can you imagine if we had an interactive Web page?” Bratt said.
According to the Civil Liberties Act, to be eligible for restitution an applicant had to have been:
1 – Alive on August 10, 1988;
2 – An US Citizen or permanent resident during the internment period;
3 – A person of Japanese ancestry, or the spouse or parent of a person of Japanese ancestry.
This meant that while many of over 120.000 Japanese Americans held in camps during the internment period had passed away, their children would still be eligible for restitution if they were alive during the period. Finding all of these people was a massive undertaking, made harder by the fact that they only had 10 years to complete the program.
By the time he was put in charge of the ORA, Robert K. Bratt already had a strong track record working in the Justice Department. He had previously worked as the Executive Officer of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, where he managed the division’s large number of administrative functions and improved its efficiency.
Bratt was the ORA’s administrator from 1988 to 1992. His name and signature can be found in all the apology letters sent out to Asian Americans around the nation during this time. In 1994 one of Bratt’s former colleagues, Irva Greene, assumed the role of administrator, but Bratt Stayed on board of operation in an advisory capacity, helping with the reparation effort up to 1999, when the ORA finished its operations.
A Washington Post article from the time described the massive effort that went into tracking down survivors. The ORA set up a toll-free number, opened a temporary office on the West Coast, distributed over 150,000 documents about the program and who was eligible to help inform the public. They also worked with experts to help deal with language barriers in order to reach more potential eligible people. And when the ORA learned that many camp survivors had been holding reunions, representatives from the program started attending those as well. Bratt himself attended many of these.
“We were working from 50-year-old records, so integrity problems were definitely possible. Yet, that didn’t happen,” Bratt explained. “We would travel all over. Seattle, Spokane, San Francisco, Salt Lake. The first two years, we did it every month or so. And we would bring laptops to enter claims there on the spot.”
By 1994, the ORA had paid over 75,000 claims. And by the end of the program, the ORA had provided $20,000 in redress to over 82,000 claimants, totaling more than $1.6 billion. Today Bratt is working in the private sector, putting his experience managing large programs to use as the COO of an international law firm.