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Death March of Filipino Veterans Politics Nearing an End

New America Media, Commentary, Emil Guillermo Posted: Sep 29, 2008

John McCain's use of the financial bailout talks to delay the start of the presidential debates didn't work for him.

But perhaps that kind of political showbiz might still work for opponents of the Filipino Vets of WWII looking to delay giving the vets what was unfairly taken away more than 60 years ago.

Let's hope not. It was used, however, last week by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs, as he tried to stop any payment for the vets.

Admittedly, fiscal responsibility is a slightly better line of anti-Vet reasoning as opposed to the xenophobic, "no-money-for- foreigners" argument that was used earlier in the year. But grandstanding as fiscally prudent just doesn't fly for this Congress which, along with the Bush administration, has a fondness for massive public debt.

More embarrassing for Burr is that he was one of the overwhelming supporters of the bill when it was up for a vote earlier this year. Now when it comes to actually giving Fil-vets their money, the guy's a big-time flip-flopper.

Further cutting Burr's credibility is that Congress does have the fraction of money needed to pay the Filipino vets of WWII, who number well under 18,000. Even Nancy Pelosi has raised the issue of whether money is there this year. But last week, following a suggestion of allies like the American Legion, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) led the way in the House to put an appropriation in for $198 million. The money's there, and the surviving Filipino veterans are now closer than ever of reaching their goal.

All that's left is for committee members from the House and Senate to get together and find the right authorizing language that will marry the two bills in question.

S. 1315 would give the vets an annual payment of between $2,400 and $9,000.

Then there's a House measure by Rep. Bob Filner that shortchanges the vets with one lump sum payment of $15,000 to the vets who are U.S. citizens, and $9,000 to Filipino citizens. Filner's bill also lacks a key component: recognition of the vets' U.S. military status.

A final compromise can and should be hammered out in the next week. Compared to a decision on a bailout, theVeterans measure can be done quickly.

But they better hurry. At the current rate of death, the vets will all be gone in 15 years. To delay is not fiscally responsible, it's just plain cruel.

Let's hope the conference committee takes place next week and that the negotiations begin to finalize the authorizing language that finally will make the vets whole.

The politics of the Filipino Vets of WWII has become a death march that has gone on far too long.

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