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Schatz introduces bill to recognize, remunerate Filipino WWII vets

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    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in an interview on Wednesday that his priorities include continuing to deliver funding for University of Hawaii research and the East-West Center.

  • World War II Filipino veteran Manuel Pablo, 88, holds a Bronze Star and POW medal at his home in Waianae, Hawaii in this March 6, 2007 file photo. He was awarded the medals while serving the U.S. military in the Philippines during World War II. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz today introduced legislation that would restore full veteran’s benefits to Filipinos who were drafted into the U.S. armed forces and served during World War II with allied soldiers.

During World War II, about 250,000 Filipinos volunteered to fight alongside U.S. troops.

The Filipino soldiers were promised all the benefits afforded to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Congress, however in 1946, stripped many Filipinos veterans of the benefits that had been promised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Over the years members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation have sought to restore the promised benefits.

Schatz’s bill, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, is the latest effort.

“Filipino veterans who fought in World War II are American veterans and deserve to be treated fairly,” Schatz said in a written statement. “These veterans and their families have waited for decades to receive the compensation that they deserve, and it is unacceptable for our country to deny them these benefits for their service. I call on my colleagues in Congress to join me in moving swiftly to pass this legislation so that we can finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for thousands of veterans across the country, and fully honor the men and women who served our country so bravely in a time of war.”

The bill eliminates the distinction between the Regular or “Old” Philippine Scouts and the other three groups of veterans — Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, Recognized Guerrilla Forces and New Philippine Scouts. Widows and children of Filipino veterans would be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation just like any other veteran. 

A companion measure was offered in the House by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).

Last month, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Hirono introduced bills that would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families.

Only about 6,000 of the 200,000 Filipino World War II veterans who served are alive, Hanabusa said.

Hirono and Hanabusa’s bill would exempt the veterans’ adult children, many of whom have been on immigration waiting lists for decades, from limits on immigrant visas into the United States.

In 1990, Congress provided those veterans a waiver from certain naturalization requirements, and many became U.S. citizens. However, allowances were not made for their children.

Hanabusa also introduced legislation to award the Filipino veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal to recognize their service.

In 1946, Congress passed the Rescission Act, which authorized a $200 million appropriation to the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines on a condition that service in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines should not be deemed to have been service in the active military or air service of the United States.

It would take Congress more than four decades to acknowledge that the Filipino World War II veterans served in the U.S. armed forces. The Immigration Act of 1990 included a provision that offered them the opportunity to obtain U.S. citizenship. And 19 years later the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included a provision that authorized the payment of benefits to the 30,000 surviving Filipino veterans in the amount of $15,000 for those who are citizens and $9,000 for those who are noncitizens.

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