MANILA, Philippines — The United States Senate veterans committee on Thursday approved a bill that would provide a special set of benefits for Filipino World War II veterans as well as others who had fought under the US flag.
Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa said in a statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs that Senate Bill No. 1315, or the Omnibus Benefits Bill, was approved in a special hearing conducted by the committee at the Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill.
“Today marks a special and historic occasion in our longstanding quest for justice and equity for our brave and courageous Filipino World War II veterans,” Gaa said.
“More significantly, and for the first time in history, the important contributions of Filipino veterans of the last World War are now being officially recognized by a US legislative enactment,” he added.
This was the farthest the equity bill has come since the US Congress first tried to repeal the 1946 Rescission Law in 1993. That budget bill deprived thousands of Filipino veterans the benefits due them as former members of the US Armed Forces.
Gaa said the bill’s passage into law would benefit thousands of surviving Filipino veterans in the Philippines.
More importantly, he said, it was a recognition of the gallantry of Filipinos who heeded the call of then US President Franklin Roosevelt to join the war effort.
The US Senate version of the bill provides for a minimum annual pension of $3,600 for a Filipino World War II veteran living alone and without dependents. The amount varies if he is married, with dependents or the beneficiary is a veteran’s widow.
The bill also increases the life insurance benefits of all disabled veterans and improves the benefits of soldiers with severe burns or traumatic injuries — like those suffered by servicemen who served in Iraq.
In a report to the US Congress, Gaa gave the number of surviving Filipino World War II veterans in the US Army Roster at 18,155, about two-thirds of whom are living in the Philippines.
Gaa also thanked Senator Daniel K. Akaka, chair of the Senate veterans committee, for sponsoring the bill and for working for its passage in the committee.
Akaka has said the equity bill “gives the committee an opportunity to rectify a wrong done to Filipino World War II veterans over 60 years ago.” Cynthia D. Balana