Friday, June 4, 2010
US SENATE COMES TO RESCUE OF FILIPINO WWII VETERANS
The US Senate has voted to use part of the savings from federal construction projects to replenish the nearly-depleted Filipino Veterans Equity Fund.
The Senate voted 60-35 to use $67 million out of an estimated $103 million in savings allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs to help the aging Filipino veterans.
President Obama signed last year a Congress bill that set aside $198 million from the economic stimulus fund for the Filipino veterans.
That amount was computed on the assumption that only 18,000 Filipino World War II veterans were left in the US and the Philippines. The fund would pay $15,000 for Filipino veterans living in the US, and $9,000 for those living in the Philippines.
But the actual number turned out to be much bigger. A total of 35,715 claims were filed by the time the period of receiving applications expired last February.
More than 12,000 – 6,187 in the Philippines and 6,230 in the US – got the lump sum payment.
But the applications of over 8,000 veterans were rejected, many of them because their names could not be found in the official US Army roster that is kept in St. Louis – the so-called Missouri List.
More significantly, 14,585 claims – representing 41 percent of the total – are still pending. And only $10 million is left in the equity fund.
Ambassador Willy Gaa sent out an urgent appeal today to the Filipino-American community to start writing or calling their congressmen to support the House version of Senate Amendment 4299. House Resolution 4899 remains pending in the chamber.
Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, sponsored the amendment and the voting went along party lines.
However, the proposal met stiff opposition from Senator Richard Burr, the senior Republican in the veterans affairs committee.
Nonetheless, three Republican senators – Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Kit Bond of Missouri and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – jumped the fence to join their Democratic colleagues in voting for the amendments that will benefit the Filipino veterans.
The lump sum payments were intended to compensate Filipino veterans who were disenfranchised by the 1946 Rescission Act that withdrew recognition for hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers and guerillas who fought under US military command in World War II.
Inouye, arguing on behalf of the Filipino veterans, said replenishing the Filipino veterans equity fund was urgent business.
“We were honor bound to those men who served and got wounded. The emergency is very simple,” the Hawaii lawmaker declared, “they are dying by the dozens each day. They are old men. Their average age is 87. They do not have too many months left in their lives.”
Inouye stressed the US has “reneged” on its promise to Filipino World War II veterans for too long.