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9.22.2008

house to vote on separate filipino veterans bills

Last week, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee introduced a new bill that would authorize a one-time payment to Filipino veterans who served a critical role on behalf of the United States during World War II. H.R. 6897 provides payment to Filipino service members who served between 1941 and 1946 - $9,000 for non-U.S. citizens and $15,000 for U.S. citizens.

These servicemen, who risked their lives for the United States, were supposed to receive their benefits half a century ago. But in 1946, Congress passed the Rescission Act which stripped them of their veteran status and denied them the right to any benefits. This bill will provide a small measure of recognition for their service... but is it enough?

Here's the press release from the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, which does express some concern over this one lump sum proposal:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2008

NAFVE Press Statement on HR 6897 Markup Hearing

Washington, DC- The House Veterans Affairs Committee today marked up HR 6897, a bill that would provide a lump sum payment to Filipino WWII soldiers in recognition of their service to the United States government during World War II. Filipino WWII veterans in the United States would receive a $15,000.00 payment and veterans in the Philippines would receive a $9,000.00 payment. The bill was introduced by HVAC Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) and was passed along with an amendment by HVAC Ranking Member Steve Buyer (R-IN) to release the U.S. government from further claims from veterans receiving payment. S. 1315, the bill that has been the focus of a sustained campaign by the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) and that will restore U.S. veterans status for Filipino WWII veterans, continues to wait for a vote on the floor.

"NAFVE and other advocates continue to press for equity for our Filipino WWII soldiers," said Jon Melegrito, NAFVE Co Chair. "S. 1315 remains the focus of our efforts, but we have also registered the serious concerns we have about a lump sum proposal with Chairman Filner. If there is anything that we can be sure of today, it is that Filipino WWII veterans remain on the radar screen of the U.S. Congress, but that we need to continue our work to make sure we win the day for our Filipino WWII veterans."

"In an environment where the opposition has invoked divisive rhetoric to pit veterans against each other instead of having a real dialogue about the merits of this issue, HR 6897 is a reaction to the muddied political waters operating right now," said Ben de Guzman, NAFVE National Coordinator. "We have to move on multiple fronts and while we are working with members of the House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Mike Honda (D-CA) as well as Chairman Filner to find a way for S. 1315 to pass the House, we are also making sure that we weigh in on any and all alternative proposals."
The bill is up for vote today: House Plans Vote on Separate Measure Compensating Filipino WWII Veterans. What about S. 1315? This has been the focus of NAFVE's efforts all along. The bill, which passed in the Senate in April, would cover benefits including life insurance, housing grants and burial allowances as well as a provision that would provide $221 million in benefits for at least 13,000 Filipino veterans. This is the bill that needs to pass in the House. More here: House should vote for Filipino vets.

UPDATE: The New York Times has a story on the debate in Congress over the specifics of this bill: House and Senate Differ Over Benefit Plan for Filipino Veteran

UPDATE: Here's another article on some Filipino veterans' reaction to this latest version of the bill: Filipino vets feel slapped in the face by lawmakers' action. If you can't tell by the headline, they're definitely not pleased.