Statement of John Kerry on Defeat of Burr Amendment to Veterans Benefits Act of 2007
The Senate today voted to pass S. 1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, which enhances life insurance programs for disabled veterans; provides increased benefits for education programs; improves housing programs for disabled service members; and modifies pay and service requirements for judges of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The bill also grants limited pension benefits to Filipino World War II veterans who fought for the United States in the war to defeat the Fascist Axis of Germany, Japan, and Italy.
During consideration of The Veterans Benefits Act of 2007, Senator Burr (R-NC) tried to strike the provision that would restore benefits to Filipino veterans. To date, Filipino WWII vets are precluded from receiving most of the veterans' benefits that were available to them prior to 1946, and that are available to all other veterans of our armed forces regardless of race, national origin, or citizenship status. The Burr amendment was defeated by a vote of 41-56.
"Today the floor of the United States Senate was hijacked for the worst kind of political purposes. Sixty years ago, Filipinos stepped forward and volunteered to fight side by side with American soldiers to win a war to save the world from Fascism. They fought and bled and suffered and many died on the islands of the South Pacific alongside the young Americans who are rightfully remembered as "The Greatest Generation." Today those Filipino men and women are in their eighties and nineties and still have not received the full veterans' benefits they earned for their sacrifice. It is astonishing that a United States Senator would feign outrage that they would now receive their due and even worse that he'd argue they did so at the expense of disabled American veterans. Where was the outrage about funding for disabled veterans when George W. Bush gave out a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Today's vote was nothing but a political stunt, and it was rightfully defeated. The Senate refused to surrender to the false choice between honoring our veterans here at home and paying a long owed debt to those who gave the best years of their lives for our freedom abroad."