Victory was declared for the thousands of World War II veterans from the Philippines this past week with the passing of the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill in the US. Democrats pushing the legislation now want a six-decade-long law overturned to give an estimated 18,000 Filipino war veterans who live in the Philippines roughly $300 a month pension.
Filipinos have called the delay a great injustice. The Rescission Act of 1946 singled out Filipino veterans for the denial of full veterans benefits, while soldiers of 66 other US allied countries, who were similarly inducted into the service of the United States during World War II, were granted full veterans status.
Now, more than 60 years later the controversial bill was passed last week and was well received by many surviving veterans and their families. However, it also left many wondering “Why now?” and most importantly … “What now?”
The Pinoy says he feels the bill has come 62 years too late and may have only been supported by Senator Hillary Clinton to try to get as much positive light to her presidential campaign as possible.
“The new bill is only but a small victory for Filipino war veterans, who have bravely fought alongside American soldiers in World War II.
â€œRecognition for the valor of Filipinos who fought for the defense of the United States and the Philippines during World War II came 62 years too late. The beneficiaries â€“ a small band of venerable citizens â€“ are falling in numbers as age, disease and death decimate their ranks.
â€œIt would not be surprising if President Bush vetoes the bill if it passes the House and the lawmakers agree on an omnibus model. Washington reports say the White House has opposed the measure, believing the little money it provides is better spent on Americaâ€™s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
â€œThere is little to cheer about the Senate gesture. Of course the bill passed by a wide margin. And Filipinos (and Americans of Filipino descent) have confirmed anew they could count on Senators Daniel Inouye, Hillary Clinton and others who know how to recognize a debt and how to fulfill a promise.â€
The White House and Republican opponents of the bill have already pointed out that such a pension would be added to one already afforded these veterans by their own government. No lawmaker wants to be accused of opposing federal aid to veterans, especially in an election year. Senators on both sides bandied that accusation and sparred over which veterans are most deserving of US aid at this time in history. Democrats said the aid is long overdue to these Filipino veterans who fought alongside Americans during World War II, with Sen Clinton issuing a statement that the passing of the bill was long overdue.
â€œI sought justice on behalf of Filipino veterans, who may finally have access to the benefits that have been unfairly withheld from them for over six decades,â€ Sen Clinton said in her statement Saturday (May 3, 2008).
The White House statement did not include a veto threat, but named several concerns the administration has with the bill. Chief among them is that the bill would give the Filipino veterans an annual pension higher than the average annual income in that country. The average American veteran pensioner living in the US, meanwhile, receives payouts of less than one-third of the average US family income, the administration had said.
Filipino bloggers, however, fear that it might be the tight race between Senators Clinton and Barak Obama that may be drawing attention to the legislation.
Taro Head, whose late grandfather was one of the thousands that fought in World War II, said she may even agree with the White House and some Republicans that money may be well spent elsewhere.
â€œWhat I'm trying to say here is, maybe – just maybe – this whole thing is just coming a little too late. That maybe – just maybe – I am agreeing with the White House and some Republicans that money may be well spent elsewhere. Unless maybe – just maybe – benefits could also go to whomever the war veterans left behind. But then MAYBE – just even possibly – that could also take another 60 years to materialize. It took that long for this bill to be passed, why not another 60 for it to take effect? Then seriously, no money will be lost.
â€œThe Democrats (ie Hillary Clinton) say the aid is long overdue to these Filipino veterans who fought alongside Americans during World War II. I totally agree. But seriously Hillary… don't give my fellow Filipinos and their families more false hope just for the sake of winning more votes in the '08 elections.
â€œHonestly, there aren't that many of the 18,000 Filipino WWII veterans left alive. Many waited long and hard for this to materialize and a lot were buried with that hope to support their still struggling families with whatever benefits “promised” to them by America.â€
To those wonderingâ€¦ Senator Barack Obama was absent from the legislative vote, says Danny Aranza, a Filipino blogger based in Guam, who thinks that Sen Clinton should be praised for backing the bill. He noted the differences between Senators Clinton and Obama as they campaigned in Guam last week.
â€œObama has opened an office in Guam with paid full-time staff and is running an aggressive paid advertisement campaign based on a lot of promises. Clinton's presence here is more grass-roots oriented.
â€This contrast between Obama's talk and Clinton's actions was aptly demonstrated just last week when the Senate passed the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007. The Act, which would provide pensions to Filipino veterans of World War II, passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 1.
â€Prior to voting on final passage of the bill, the Senate debated an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56 to 41.
â€In both votes, Clinton stood up and fought on behalf of justice for the Filipino veterans, whose equal right to full US veterans’ benefits was unfairly withheld from them for more than 60 years.
â€œClinton voted against the restrictive amendment and for final passage of the original bill finally giving Filipino WWII veterans full veterans’ benefits.
â€Sen Obama, notably, was absent from both votes.â€
Cocoy826 said that the most recent bill is one of many that the war veterans have been fighting to acquire since the end of World War II.
â€œIn recent decades, the veterans have also fought for and won burial benefits, supplemental income, health care, pharmaceuticals and nursing homes. But lately, the passage of the pension bill for veterans has been an issue.
â€œAnother bill also being pushed for approval, along with these benefits, is the Family Reunification Bill, which veterans could use to expedite the immigration process for family members still remaining in the Philippines.
â€œFor some veterans, they would rather have this than the pension.â€
The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act is a bill to exempt children of Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on US immigration visas.