Tuesday, May 27, 2008



The old warriors are frail and stooped, and most

of their comrades in arms are dead.

For more about Filipino veterans, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...

Story here... http://www.baltimoresun.com

Story below:


Filipino veterans still await benefits, respect


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The old warriors are frail and stooped, and most of their comrades in arms are dead.

But the Filipino veterans of World War II - all in their 80s and 90s - are still fighting to rectify a snub from six decades ago, when President Harry S. Truman went back on a congressional promise to make Filipino soldiers U.S. citizens with full military benefits.

Now, as Memorial Day approaches, the House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a bill giving the Filipino soldiers roughly the same benefits as U.S. veterans.

"We really need to do it now because we're losing 10 Filipino veterans a day," said Sarah Gonzalez, a daughter of a Filipino veteran who is helping the veterans lobby Congress. "They want justice before they die."

Of the 250,000 Filipino veterans of World War II, about 18,000 are still alive - 6,000 in the U.S. About 30,000 came here in the early 1990s after President George H.W. Bush signed a bill granting them instant citizenship.

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In the Philippines, they believed that citizenship meant that they could live out their years in pride on military pensions, said Leon Agda, 82, a former guerrilla who once narrowly escaped execution by the Japanese.

Instead, Agda and virtually all of his fellow veterans wound up on Supplemental Security Income, a welfare program for the elderly and the disabled.

"I shed my blood for liberty, democracy and America, and I ended up receiving this thing they call welfare," said Dominador Valdez, another former guerrilla. "We were dishonored."

Drafted in 1941

The veterans' quest for parity stems from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision in July 1941 to draft 140,000 soldiers of the Philippines, then an American colony. A year later, Congress passed a law allowing Filipino soldiers to become U.S. citizens with full military benefits.

But in 1946, after Filipino soldiers fought and died side-by-side with U.S. troops under the American flag, President Truman signed two bills denying them citizenship as well as most veterans' benefits. The bills were postwar cost-saving measures that Truman said he regretted.

Congress recently put a bill aimed at addressing the historical double-cross on its front-burner.

In late April, the Senate by a vote of 96-1 passed a veterans bill containing a Filipino parity provision after defeating a Republican-led amendment that would have eliminated from the bill pensions for 12,000 veterans in the Philippines who did not sustain combat-related injuries.

The bill would give the Filipino veterans a Veterans Administration pension of $900 a month if they live in the U.S., $300 plus VA health care if they live in the Philippines.

Some lawmakers say the equity bill stands a good chance of passing because the cost is relatively low.

And because the vets are dying so quickly, the costs should rapidly drop every year.

Push by Democrats

But Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, attributes Congress' renewed interest in the bill mostly to the Democratic takeover of Congress a year and a half ago.

That meant that key supporters of the bill took over committees that dispense veterans benefits.

Some lawmakers say the "equity bill" is the moral equivalent of the 1988 act signed by President Ronald Reagan giving an apology and compensation to Japanese-Americans interned during the Second World War.

"We went back on our word to the Filipino veterans and shamed ourselves as a country and as a Congress," said Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat who was put into an internment camp as an infant. "It's really an outrage.

The parity provision for Filipino veterans is tucked into a broader bill improving housing and other benefits for all veterans.

The bill, SB1315 by Senate Democrat Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, has the full backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who has told Honda, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and other key supporters to round up 60 GOP votes to make sure the House vote is veto-proof.

The Bush administration has expressed concerns about the cost of the parity provisions, but the president has not said whether he would sign or veto the bill.

But supporters say it would cost no more than $30 million a year.

In the late 1990s, when a lot more World War II veterans were alive, the price tag was about $800 million annually.

A concerted push to pass a parity bill began about two decades ago. And supporters have had incremental successes - notably the 1990 law that made the Filipino veterans citizens. Other bills granted the veterans burial and VA benefits.

But the victories were bittersweet, reminding the veterans that they were "second-class veterans," Lachica said.

Rick Rocamora, a documentary photographer, was initially shocked by their war stories.

As a schoolboy in the Philippines he had heard more about Gen. Douglas MacArthur's "I shall return" promise after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor than about the heroism and sacrifices of his countrymen.

Victims of abuse

At citizenship ceremonies, Rocamora said, they waved the Stars and Stripes and sang "God Bless America."

They wrote home about how they had "finally made it," Rocamora said.

But they never wrote about the way they really lived.

Most of the veterans were jammed into small apartments in San Francisco's Tenderloin, Oakland's Fruitvale district and other gritty urban neighborhoods.

In 1993, Rocamora found one group of veterans in Richmond being abused by a Filipino-American businessman who put six or seven veterans in each bedroom in one of his properties.

One veteran was chained to a bedpost and fed dog food.

About 4,000 discouraged veterans returned to the Philippines. But others hoped they could bring at least some members of their families here.

But because they were on welfare, they were ineligible to sponsor relatives.

Getting a VA pension instead of SSI would make a huge difference to former guerrilla Avelino Elido, 86, and his wife, Juana, 84.

The couple, who live in an East San Jose senior complex, could sponsor their youngest son, a dentist, to emigrate here from the Philippines.

"We really need our son here to take care of us before we die," Juana Elido said.

Honda praises the veterans for their patience.

"I've never heard them say an angry word, but I can also sense them saying: 'When will you finally make this happen?'" Honda said.

"Still, they are proud, and they still wear their uniforms and medals. Their spirit has not diminished over time."


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org


As a veteran it disgusts me that Congress has not acted on this issue before this, I as a child remember my parents friends who served in the Philipinnes during WW2, some that survived the Bataan Death March, being POWs, and lived thru General MacArthur's "I Shall Return" they have nothing but pride at the soldiers of the Philipinnes that served next to them and as guerillas, President Truman and Congress royally screwed these veterans over and now in the limelight of their lives and just want a little dignity, some members of Congress claim that giving them 300 a month is to generous, excuse me, what about the past 60 years? They should give them the same 1000 a month they are going to give the Merchant Marines......now that is fairness

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