An organization of US-based Filipino activists has criticized the passage, by the Democrat-led US House of Representatives, of House Bill No. 6897 or the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2008.
The bill, which was passed today by a 329-23 vote, provides for a one-time lumpsum payment to Filipinos who fought side by side with US forces during World War II.
“It’s an insult,” said Chito Quijano, chairman of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-USA. “The one-time payment proposal for our veterans completely misses the mark as to why the entire Filipino community in the United States and in the Philippines has been united in painstakingly campaigning for full equity for the past six decades — for recognition of the valor, honor, and courage contributed to the US war campaign by these great servicemen, without whom US military victory in the Pacific would be questionable, and to hold the US government accountable to its promises to these Filipino soldiers, which have proven themselves empty. “It’s as if Congress is dishing out this small amount of money as a token measure just to shut the community up and be done with us. This is especially insulting when Congress is dishing out at least $700 billion in bailout funds for Wall Street bankers and corporations, while these Filipino servicemen gave their lives and health for the US military and are receiving scraps with no due recognition. This is far from the full equity they deserve.”
HB 6897 provides that surviving Filipino Veterans in the United States will receive a lump-sum payment of $15,000, while those living elsewhere would receive $9,000.
The bill, however, omits formal recognition of the Filipino World War II Veterans for their efforts as servicemen recruited to the US Armed Forces, as well as excludes excludes widows for compensation. Lack of recognition prevents Filipino veterans from availing of general V.A. (Veterans Affairs) benefits, such as pensions and health insurance.
At the same time, the bill requires veterans who sign on to also sign a quit claim, absolving the US government from any future monetary claims by Filipino veterans. This would disallow surviving veterans from availing of basic social benefits from the US government they may be already receiving, such as Social Security Insurance (SSI).
Of the original 300,000 Filipino men recruited in 1941 by then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to participate alongside US troops in defending the Philippines, which then a US Commonwealth, only 18,000 are still alive. An average of 10 veterans die each day. Those who passed away were forced to subsist meagerly on SSI, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and died without V.A. burial benefits. For surviving Filipino veterans, the choice remains difficult between accepting a meager lump-sum payment or having their social benefits allotted through government.
“With the rising cost of healthcare in the US today, Filipino veterans would be lucky if $15,000 would carry them through 6 months of doctors visits, procedures, and medicines,” Quijano said. “The cost of healthcare will dramatically rise with the advent of the Wall Street meltdown, and the quality of life for our veterans and everyone else in this country will be put to the test. It is becoming more imperative every passing day that our aging veterans receive full pensions and health benefits.”
The Bayan-USA leader also chided theArroyo administration for offering zero advocacy for the plight of the aging Filipino veterans. In fact, the passage of HR 6897 occurred while Arroyo and Philippine delegation of more than 71 were in the US to speak at the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in New York City.
“While the future of the House and Senate bills remain uncertain, one thing is for sure, the decades-long struggle for full equity for our veterans has not been sufficiently addressed by US Congress. These are but token and short-changed measures that do not live up to the struggle Filipinos have waged for our heroic veterans,” Quijano said. (Bulatlat)