Fulfill promise to Filipino veterans
While Filipinos celebrate the centennial of their immigration to Hawaii, Congress has yet to restore full veterans benefits to Filipinos who fought in World War II.
NEXT month Hawaii's Filipinos will begin a centennial celebration
of the beginning of their immigration to the islands. America has welcomed them with extended arms, with one exception: Filipinos who were drafted in 1941 to serve alongside U.S. soldiers in World War II have been shortchanged
. Congress needs to finally provide them veterans benefits that were promised at the time.
The Philippine islands were an American commonwealth when thousands of Filipinos were inducted into the U.S. armed forces after Japan attacked in 1941. More than 120,000 Filipino soldiers served under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised them U.S. veterans benefits, but Congress reneged on the promise when the Philippines gained independence in 1946.
Congress finally began providing health care and burial services in 2000 for Filipinos who served directly in the U.S. armed forces. Two years ago, President Bush signed a bill providing Filipino veterans living in the United States the same federal health care given to American veterans.
Congress did not offer U.S. citizenship until 1990 under legislation authored by Senator Inouye. That law brought nearly 25,000 Filipino veterans to the United States, including 3,000 to Hawaii. Those numbers have dwindled to about 12,000 and 2,000 respectively. The estimated 58,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines and the United States are now in their 70s and 80s.
A bill sponsored by Inouye would provide full benefits to Filipino veterans living in the United States or the Philippines. The bill would cost about $100 million to $150 million a year over the next decade. The bill stalled in the House Veterans Affairs Committee in the last Congress because of budget constraints.
The cost of assistance to Gulf Coast hurricane victims makes budget concerns even more of an issue, but it should not stand in the way of fulfilling a promise.
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