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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 06:51 PM

US Congress approves payment of lump sum to Pinoy WWII vets





09/25/2008
US Senate Bill (SB) 1315 or the Filipino Veterans Enhancement Act was given “unanimous consent” by the US House of Representatives (HR), voting 392-23, placing more than 13,000 Filipino veterans at the penultimate stage of being given just recognition for fighting alongside American soldiers in World War II. Of the 66 countries that fought with the US in WWII, only Filipinos were not given recognition for their contributions and have been refused US veterans status.
“The passage of the Filipino Veterans Enhancement Act in the US gives our veterans a long delayed and long deserved victory. More than any financial consideration, this will bring justice to more than 250,000 Filipino veterans denied US veterans status by the 1946 Rescision Act,” said Sen. Richard Gordon.
HR 6897, the US House of Representatives counterpart legislation to US SB 1315, awards a one-time lump sum of $15,000 to Filipino WWII veterans in the US and $9,000 to those in the Philippines.
Presidential Assistant for Veterans Affairs Jerry Adevoso explained that moves to secure recognition and benefits for Filipino WWII veterans were stalled last year due to apprehension that receiving benefits from the US would forfeit veterans their pension from the Philippine government. According to Sec. 10 of Republic Act (RA) 6948 or “An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and Their Dependents,” the pension given by the government to Filipino WWII Veterans would be forfeited should a similar pension be given by the United States government.
Gordon in a few months spearheaded the passage of SB 142 amending Sec. 10 of RA 6948.
Gordon’s bill was enacted into RA 9499 or “An Act Allowing Filipino World War II Veterans To Continue Receiving Philippine Government Pensions And Benefits Notwithstanding Similar Pensions And Benefits Provided By The United States Government, Thereby Amending Republic Act 6948, As Amended.”
The law was unveiled during the Araw ng Kagitingan rites held on Mt. Samat on April 9. Gordon thanked Pres. Gloria Arroyo for her vocal support for more benefits for the veterans, and Reps. Carissa Coscolluela and Herminia Roman who co-authored the Lower House version of SB 142.
“The US Senate’s passage of the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 finally settles a 60-year-old question of honor and justice long denied to our veterans who are mostly in their eighties. Certainly, the expected benefits will provide comfort in their waning years, but what matters really is the American government’s recognition of their heroism, valor and sacrifice,” said Gordon.
Filipino WWII organization leaders expressed alarm at the passage of the two bills in the US House of Representatives and Senate.
Eric Lachica, executive director of the Washington DC-based American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, told Asian Journal Online he finds HR 6897 “unacceptable.”
He said “it provides no official recognition, gives too little too late, doesn’t give money to the widows and it’s a quit claim bill that would surrender the veterans, rights to future compensation or benefits.”
Ben de Guzman, national coordinator of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, said they still prefer the senate’s Veteran’s Enhancement Act or S. 1315.
“We continue to fight for the principles for equity. We are still committed to working on S. 1315 and to have the committee include the Filipino equity provisions,” he said.
The SB passed by an overwhelming vote in April, stalled in the House due to the financial burden the legislation carries. Once approved, the bill would allow Filipino WWII veterans residing in the Philippines to be eligible for an annual payment of $3,600 or $300 a month and married veterans to be eligible for $4,500. The annual payment for surviving spouses would be $2,400. Michaela P. del Callar

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