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Pinoy war vets win pension battle in US Senate

by Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) Friday, Jun. 29, 2007 at 1:18 PM
jfav_causa@yahoo.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs voted on Wednesday to give monthly pensions of up to 5 for Filipino World War II veterans and their widows for their service to Uncle Sam more than 60 years ago. “Today marks a special and historic occasion in our long-standing quest for justice and equity for our brave and courageous veterans,” said Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa after the committee, at a mark-up hearing, approved an omnibus benefits bill providing for a special set of benefits for men and women who have fought under the US flag. The measure provides a monthly pension of 0 for Filipino veterans who are single, 5 for married veterans and 0 for widows.

Pinoy war vets win pension battle in US Senate

By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington Bureau

Friday, June 29, 2007



WASHINGTON — The US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs voted on Wednesday to give monthly pensions of up to 5 for Filipino World War II veterans and their widows for their service to Uncle Sam more than 60 years ago.

“Today marks a special and historic occasion in our long-standing quest for justice and equity for our brave and courageous veterans,” said Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa after the committee, at a mark-up hearing, approved an omnibus benefits bill providing for a special set of benefits for men and women who have fought under the US flag.

The measure provides a monthly pension of 0 for Filipino veterans who are single, 5 for married veterans and 0 for widows.

A mark-up hearing is where the committee decides the level of funding that goes into the appropriations for the bill.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs is expected to have its own mark-up hearing on the House version of the Filipino equity bill in two weeks’ time.

Gaa, in a statement, thanked Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii for sponsoring the Senate bill and for working for its passage with the Veterans Committee which he chairs.

“The tireless support of such friends of the Philippines as Sen. Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye (Democrat, Hawaii) will always be remembered by the Filipino people,” he said.

The committee vote on Wednesday came exactly a week after Sen. Richard Gordon visited Washington to lobby Senators Akaka and Inouye and other US legislators, some personal friends of his, to pass the equity measure pending in Congress.

“We’ve never come this close before on the equity issue. We’re almost at the end of the tunnel. We’re on the last lap,” Gordon told the Filipino-American community.

According to official records there are 18,155 Filipino veterans still alive out of 260,143 inscribed in the US Army roster immediately after the war. The number of widows is not immediately known.

About 12,000 of these war veterans live in the Philippines and the rest reside in the United States.

They have been seeking non combat-related disability pensions since the US Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946 which stripped Filipino soldiers drafted into US military service in the Philippines of their US veterans status.

In his statement Gaa said the committee vote marked “the first time ever in history” that the important contribution of the Filipino soldiers in World War II were being officially recognized by a US legislative enactment.

Retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs at the Philippine embassy, said he was very optimistic the Filipino equity bill will become law this year.

“We won a big battle today but we have not yet won the war, so we have to stay focused,“ cautioned Eric Lachica, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV).

Supporters in the House are pushing for a monthly pension of up to 0 to put the Filipinos on par with their American comrades but may be forced to settle for much less to get the measure passed because of the enormous medical expenditures for US soldiers coming back from Iraq.

Extreme gratitude

Gordon relayed the gratitude of the Philippine government to the two US lawmakers who supported the cause of Filipino veterans.

Accompanied by Gaa, Gordon thanked Inouye and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) for their continued support for the passage of an equity bill for Filipino World War II veterans.

Senator Inouye is the sponsor of Senate Bill 57 seeking equity for Filipino World War II veterans.

Inouye is currently the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs while Senator Leahy is a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and chairman of Sub-committee on State and Foreign Operations.

Aside from thanking both senators for their support for SB 57, Gordon stressed the issue of recognition is a matter of honor and an opportunity for the US government to finally fulfill a commitment and an obligation to people who fought under the US flag for the cause of freedom and democracy.

The meeting also afforded the senators an opportunity to discuss developments in Philippines and US relations, particularly the success of the joint RP-US cooperation programs in Mindanao.

Gordon told Inouye and Leahy of the progress made in the efforts to bring much-needed economic development in various impoverished and remote communities in Mindanao.

Gordon joined the two US lawmakers in reaffirming their continuing commitment to efforts aimed at further strengthening and enhancing the Philippines-US partnership.

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