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Equity bill moved to ’08, vets dismayed

by JFAV Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007 at 3:29 AM
jfav{ 213-241-0995 1610 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles CA 920026

So near, yet so far.With two Republican senators continuing to block the bill getting a floor vote, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the committee on veterans affairs, has decided to hold action on the bill with the equity pension provision until February or March next year, Filipino World War II veterans leaders have learned.

Equity bill moved to ’08, vets dismayed

WASHINGTON. D.C. — So near, yet so far.With two Republican senators continuing to block the bill getting a floor vote, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the committee on veterans affairs, has decided to hold action on the bill with the equity pension provision until February or March next year, Filipino World War II veterans leaders have learned.

Ambassador Willy C. Gaa hosted a meeting of veterans and their advocates at the embassy here last Wednesday. Former Republican Congressman Ben Gilman of New York, who has been engaged as a lobbyist, said two senators have put a “hold” on the pension bill, according to two who were present at the meeting.

One of the lawmakers is Sen. Larry Craig, former ranking committee member. On Nov. 8, he objected to having S. 1315 approved on the floor by a request for unanimous consent. The request was rescinded.

The bill would grant U.S.-based Filipino WWII veterans 1 a month, which is okay with Senator Craig. But he is against granting veterans living in the Philippines 0 a month, favoring only 0. “I believe that the approach taken in this section with respect to special pension benefits for non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. resident Filipino veterans and surviving spouses goes beyond the intent of veterans benefits,” he stressed on Nov. 8.

But dismayed leaders refused to beempty-handed this year. Led by Franco Arcebal, they wrote Akaka a letter on Dec. 4 urging him to get S. 671, his family reunification bill, passed this month beforethe 110th U.S. Congress adjourns Dec. 21.

Speaking by phone from L.A. last Thursday, Arcebal, vice president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) based here, pointed out that the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act stands a better chance to pass in the 110th Congress.

“It requires no appropriations,” he explained. ACFV Executive Director Eric Lachica said veterans from the East Coast would gather here Dec. 12 and 13 to push for the family reunification bill. “Senator Akaka needs a Republican to get the bill to a floor vote, and we’re going to ask Senator (Arlen) Specter of Pennsylvania to be his co-sponsor,” he said in a phone interview last week.

“We are optimistic that we can pull it off in the remaining two weeks left,” he added.The bill would allow adult sons and daughters of some 5,000 U.S.-based veterans, as well as minor grandchildren, to jump ahead of the line and enter the U.S. by next year. Many adult children with approved petitions have been waiting for up to 15 years to get a visa.

Arcebal said the bill obtained 87 votes in senate last May. The senate has 100 members. “We should have pushed for the passage of the family reunification then, but there are two bills this year, and we focused on fighting for the equity bill,” he said. “Now many veterans are blaming us for not pushing for the family bill…we forgot about it.”

“All of us are old, we want to see our children and grandchildren before we die,” he said. He also noted that unlike the equity bill, the family reunification bill would still benefit their children and below age 21 grandchildren even if they die.

Other leaders who signed the Dec. 4 letter to Akaka were: Faustino Baclig, Justice for Filipino Veterans; Eugenio Mondok Sr., United Filipino American WWII Veterans, Inc.; Gregorio Villanueva, Veterans Federation of the Philippines, USA Region, and Jack Vergara, Society of Guerrillas & Scouts, Inc.

Copies of the letter were furnished to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats from California, and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI). Excerpts of their letter follow: “Early this year, when the Democratic Party took control of both chambers of Congress, your legislative actions gave us high expectations on the passage of these bills this year.

But the end of the year is ending and we are seeing the ‘green’ on the legislative traffic light turning ‘yellow’ once again…“There being only two weeks leeway before Christmas time, we urge you to remedy the passage of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Bill S. 671 and make it your Christmas package for us this season.”


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