Philippines tallies eligible veterans
Filipinos fought for the U.S. in WWII, but were denied benefits
A total of 18,155 Filipinos who fought alongside U.S. forces in World War II would receive veterans benefits from the U.S. government under legislation pending in Congress, according to the Philippine government.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Willy C. Gaa provided the statistic in a letter this week to key lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"I have provided this information to the Congressional Budget Office and asked that they consider this information in providing an official estimate on the costs of improving benefits for Filipino veterans," Akaka said in an e-mailed statement.
Roughly 120,000 Filipinos were drafted in 1941 to serve alongside U.S. forces in defending the Philippines -- an American commonwealth at the time -- during World War II. Those Filipinos were promised the same veterans' benefits as American servicemen, but Congress rescinded the pledge in 1946, when the Philippines gained independence.
While Filipinos who served directly in the U.S. armed forces and those who now live in the United States qualify for some programs administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, many still seek the full benefits that were promised, including health care, pension and survivor and burial benefits.
There are an estimated 2,000 Filipino WWII veterans in Hawaii.
Two bills alive in Congress would provide the reciprocal benefits for these veterans.
In the Senate, S. 57 was heard by Akaka's committee in April, and awaits further action. A companion measure, H.R. 760, was introduced in the House but has not been heard.
Similar bills have been introduced in the past, but typically have stalled because of cost concerns. Some estimates place the price tag between $100 million and $150 million a year over 10 years.
Gaa, like Akaka, said he hoped the new statistic would lead to a more accurate cost analysis.
"By formally submitting a more accurate number, the U.S. Congress as well as the U.S. Veterans Administration will have a much clearer idea of the resources and other administrative requirements that are involved in the equity bill," Gaa was quoted in the Philippine News.
According to the newspaper, the data on veterans were taken primarily from two sources: the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, which maintains the list of surviving WWII veterans, and the roster of Filipino WWII veterans maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Manila.