Filipino Vets' Benefits in US Stimulus Bill

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON D.C. - US Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii, Democrat) has inserted benefits for Filipino war veterans in Senate Bill No. 366, the Stimulus Bill being pushed by President Barack Obama.

Inouye was able to insert the rider in his capacity as chairman of the US Senate Committee on Appropriations. He took over as committee chairman last Jan. 6 from Sen. Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia, Democrat).

Inouye and Byrd have been supporting the cause of Filipino veterans, having jointly authored and sponsored the Filipino Veterans Equity bill in the past.

Senate Bill No. 366, also known as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was introduced in the Senate last Jan. 29 together with a rider that provides the Filipino veterans certain benefits.

The Filipino veterans benefits buried in the 430-page omnibus bill is actually a downgrade of the annual pension benefit passed overwhelmingly by the Senate last April. But it is a revival of the stand-alone lump sum bill introduced in the House of Representatives late last year that was deleted in its final version.

The US House of Representatives' version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 did not carry the rider in the Senate version for the Filipino war veterans. The measure, also known as House Resolution No. 1, was introduced by Rep. David R. Obey (Wisconsin, Democrat), the House Committee on Appropriations chairman.

Filipino veterans and their supporters, however, said they are hopeful that when the two bills are reconciled by the joint House and Senate conference committee, the Filipino veterans benefit will be kept intact in its final version.

Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, appealed to veterans and supporters to call their respective senators and congressmen to keep the Filipino veterans benefit in the stimulus bill that will benefit about 10,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines and 5,000 Filipino veterans in the U.S. when the bill goes up for debate next week.

"Administrative Provision Sec. 1002" of S. 366, entitled "Payments to Eligible Persons who served in the United States Armed Forces in the Far East during World War II," provides that those Filipinos "who served in variety of units, some of whom came under direct control of the United States Armed Forces," will be entitled to a lump sum pay of $ 9,000 if they are not United States citizens or a one-time pay of $ 15,000 if they are U.S. citizens.

Filipino veterans in the U.S. earlier expressed hesitation to accept the $ 15,000 unless they can keep on receiving their Social Security income required by the House version last year.

The bill said in the event that the veteran dies, the surviving spouse will be entitled for the lump sum pay.

The beneficiaries will be the "regular (old) Philippine Scouts, the new Philippine Scouts, the Guerilla Services, and more than 100,000 members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army called into the service of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East on 14 July 26, 1941, by an executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt."

The benefits will be sourced from $ 198,000,000 "Filipino Compensation Fund" that will "remain available until expended."

The bill will try to restore the benefits denied the Filipino veterans by the Rescissions Acts of 1946 that deemed "the service of certain other Filipino veterans not to be active service for purposes of such laws" under section 107 of title 38, United States Code.

The bill said other Filipino veterans only receive certain benefits under title 38, United States Code, and, depending on where they legally reside, are paid such benefit amounts at reduced rates.

Among the benefits they received are for service-connected compensation benefits, dependency indemnity compensation, survivor benefits and burial benefits. These benefits are paid at the rate of $ 0. …