I fist read the news on the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 on BakitWhy.com this week. I know this news is kind of old, but I had to post it since I took a short break from blogging. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA, San Mateo/San Francisco District) had introduced a bill early this month in the United States Congress that seeks to make Filipino World War II veterans equally eligible for all benefits given to all American veterans, including lifetime monthly pension. This definitely comes as great news to the Filipino-American community.
Grace S. Valera, executive director of the US-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), told the Philippines News Agency in an e-mail that if passed, Speier’s bill — Filipino Fairness Act of 2011 — will repeal the Rescission Act of 1946 that stripped about 200,000 Filipino WW II veterans and their widows and children of full benefits, out of the 66 allied nationalities that fought with the U.S. during the Second World War.
“It is an effort to rid ourselves of our shameful history as it relates to the Filipinos who served with our Armed Forces during World War II on America’s side (and) who were for the most part considered to be legal American nationals,” said Speier’s during a press conference in San Mateo Monday.
Spiers said her bill will make all WWII Filipino veterans fully eligible for the same benefits that other US veterans receive including eligibility for health care, education loans, home loans and allowance for burial in a national cemetery. Surviving widows of veterans would also be entitled to their husbands’ benefits. During WWII, more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers fought in defense of the US against the invading Japanese. Spiers said more than hall of those Filipinos were killed. The soldiers were promised military benefits by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Critics of such legislation, however, have argued that the money for Filipino benefits would take funding away from programs for American veterans. Critics have also complained that such a bill would be overly generous to Filipino veterans based in the Philippines, where the standard of living is lower than in the U.S. They also point out that the Philippines is no longer an American colony as it was during the war, gaining its independence in 1946.
Supporters of Filipino benefits have seen some gains in recent years. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and part of the legislation provided a one-time payment of $15,000 for Filipino veterans living in the US and $9,000 for veterans in the Philippines. But there has been a set back. Since its passage, many Filipino WWII veterans have yet to receive their lump sum payment. But Filipino veterans and widows filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for denying that payment to many claimants.