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Filipino Veterans Left Out in the Cold

Pacific Citizen, News report, Pacific Citizen Staff Posted: Nov 11, 2008

Aging World War II Filipino veterans need to wait another year for their long-sought benefits.

Time has run out on the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill, which would have given lump-sum benefit payments to WWII Filipino veterans who fought alongside American forces.

Congress has adjourned without approving any form of the bill, disappointing those who believed they were very close to winning benefits for Filipinos veterans.

The measure which would have authorized $198 million to eligible Filipino veterans, failed to receive final Congressional approval because of opposition by Senate Republicans, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, a sponsor of the Senate measure.

Sen. Richard Burr, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chose to block Akaka's request to form a conference committee on the Senate floor before Congress adjourned, said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, Akaka's press secretary.

Akaka, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, has vowed to renew his advocacy in the new Congress next year.

"While Congress voted to establish a nearly $200 million Filipino Veterans Equity fund this year, opponents of Filipino veterans equity successfully blocked the legislation required to provide veteran status and compensation to the few remaining Filipino veterans of World War II," said Akaka in a statement.

"We have been deterred, but we are not defeated. I intend to return to this issue in the next Congress. The march toward equity is not over," he added.

S. 1315, the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, an omnibus veterans' benefits bill, contained provisions to provide WWII Filipino veterans who served under U.S. military command with recognition as veterans, a limited pension, and increased compensation for their twilight years.

These provisions were adapted from S. 57, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Akaka led a successful floor fight for S. 1315 in the Senate, defeating an amendment to remove the Filipino veterans language and securing Senate passage by a vote of 96 to 1.

In the House, the Filipino veterans' provisions were stripped and efforts to negotiate a final version of the bill were blocked when the bill was returned to the Senate.

The measure's failure coincides with Filipino American History Month, which many veterans and advocates regard as salt on a wound.

vetDuring WWII, Filipino men who were citizens of the Philippines - then a U.S. possession - fought under the command of the U.S. military. After the war, Gen. Omar Bradley and the U.S. government recognized them as U.S. veterans. But less than a year later, their veteran status was stripped by an act of Congress.

"This was a shameful act against our brothers in arms - who fought side-by-side with America's greatest generation and risked their lives to rescue American prisoners of war," said Akaka.

All of the remaining Filipino veterans are in the twilight of their lives.

"My work on this important issue is not finished," Inouye said in a statement. "When the 111th Congress begins, I will consider all options to gain the legislative authority needed to expend the funds, as well as secure the recognition and honor that Filipino veterans of World War II so duly deserve."

Filipino Veterans Sound Battle Cry at Magazine Awards

Death March of Filipino Veterans Politics Nearing an End

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