Reverse congressional denial of benefits to Filipino vets
The Senate is considering a bill that would provide benefits to Filipinos who were drafted into the U.S. armed forces in World War II.
Time is running out for Filipino veterans under U.S. command during World War II who were promised and then denied special pensions and other benefits. The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would restore benefits for the few veterans living in the Philippines in their twilight years.
Opponents of the measure argue that it would cut into benefits to be provided American soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Filipino veterans deserve what they were promised. This is not a case of foreign allies being given U.S. benefits. The Philippines were under U.S. colonial rule at the outbreak of World War II, and 120,000 Filipinos were inducted directly into the U.S. armed forces to serve under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised those Filipinos the same veterans benefits as American servicemen, but Congress reneged on the promise as soon as the Philippines gained independence in 1946. Congress restored the benefits five years ago to the 7,000 Filipino veterans living in the United States, including 2,000 in Hawaii, but did not include those remaining in the Philippines.
Japan could have bypassed the Philippines in its planned drive to the Dutch East Indies but chose to attack it because it was under U.S. colonial rule. Retired Major Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of veterans affairs at the Philippines' U.S. Washington embassy, notes that Japan bypassed Thailand, which was not under U.S. colonial rule.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed the benefits for Filipino veterans. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, visited the Philippines recently and met with some of the veterans who would receive restored benefits, finding that they were at least 82 years old. "They are very much in need of our help," Stevens said.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, argued that the proposed special pension of $300 a month would lift a single Filipino veteran to 1,400 percent of the Philippines' poverty line. That does not account for the two decades in which they have been denied any benefits at all.
The proposal to reverse the 1946 congressional action to provide benefits to veterans in the Philippines is included in a larger bill that would improve benefits to active-duty armed-service members, veterans and their survivors. Senate action was scheduled for today, along with an amendment proposed by Burr to eliminate the provision that would benefit Filipinos.
The House has yet to consider the proposal but the legislation should be considered in that chamber regardless of the outcome of Burr's amendment.