Legislative History of Title VIII of the Social Security Act

Article excerpt

This article details the congressional effort to recognize the important contributions of Filipino veterans in World War II that led to the enactment of a new title VIII of the Social Security Act, "Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans." It describes the evolution of a proposal to pay a reduced Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit to Filipino and other World War II veterans who want to return to their homeland or otherwise live outside the United States. The article highlights the different options considered and the early implementation of payments by the Social Security Administration under the new program. Title VIII is the first benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration since the enactment of the legislation that created the SSI program in 1972.

Introduction

On December 14, 1999, President Clinton signed the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, Public Law 106-169. That law established a new program of cash benefits for certain World War II veterans who live in the United States, are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and want to live outside the United States. The impetus for the bill came from members of Congress who wished to honor the World War II service of Filipinos who served in the armed forces of the United States but who are not eligible for full cash benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The new program makes it financially possible for SSI beneficiaries who are also World War II veterans to return to their homeland and have the opportunity to rejoin family members who did not immigrate to the United States.1 The new benefits, authorized under title VIII of the Social Security Act, are known as Special Veterans Benefits (SVB). General revenues are used to reimburse the Social Security trust funds for the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) cost of administering the SVB program.

To be eligible for SVB, an individual must:

* Be aged 65 or older on December 14,1999;

* Be a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. military at some point from September 16, 1940, and through July 24, 1947, or who served in the organized military of the Philippines at some point from July 26, 1941, through December 30,1946;

* File an application for SVB;

* Be eligible for SSI for December 1999;

* Be eligible for SSI for the month in which he or she applies for the special benefits; and

* Have other benefit income that is less than 75 percent of the current SSI federal benefit rate.2

Unlike the SSI program, the SVB program does not take into account an individual's resources or living arrangements. Similar to the SSI program, benefits are not paid to dependents or survivors. The SVB program is the first new benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration since the enactment of the legislation that created the SSI program in 1972.

Background and Legislative History

The Philippine Islands became a United States possession in 1898 when they were ceded from Spain following the Spanish-American War. In 1934, the Congress enacted the Philippine Independence Act (Public Law 73-127), which provided a 10-year time frame for the independence of the Philippines and, in the interim, established a Commonwealth of the Philippines with certain powers over its internal affairs. Full independence from the United States was delayed for 2 years by Japan's occupation of the Philippines during 1942 to 1945. Between 1934 and final independence in 1946, the United States retained specific sovereign powers over the Philippines, including the right, upon order of the President of the United States, to call all military forces organized by the Commonwealth government into the service of the United States.

During World War II, Filipinos served in a variety of units. Some of the units came under direct U.S. military control, others had no ties to the U. …