MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009
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Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of amendment number 22, offered by Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, which would provide a one time payment to the courageous Filipino veterans of World War II.
Filipino veterans are those that honorably answered the call of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served alongside our armed forces during World War II. They fought shoulder to shoulder with American servicemen; they sacrificed for the same just cause. We made a promise to provide full veterans' benefits to those who served with our troops. And while we have made appreciable progress toward fulfilling that promise, we have not yet achieved the full equity that the Filipino veterans deserve.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 760, The Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007, which was introduced by the Chairman to provide the necessary reclassification of the service of Filipino veterans to make them eligible for all the veterans' benefits programs administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs. In essence, H.R. 760 makes good on the promise our government made to these brave men over sixty years ago.
Today, out of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans, only 18,000 are left. Of that number some 2,000 reside in my home state of Hawaii. As Filipino veterans are entering the sunset years of their lives, Congress is running out of time to fulfill our obligations to them.
While there is no question in my mind that the appropriate action for Congress is to provide full veterans' benefits to the Filipino World War II veterans, this one time payment of $15,000 to those veterans who are now American citizens and a $9,000 payment to those veterans that remain Philippine nationals is a gesture that is a step forward in the little time we have left to thank and respect the promises made to these brave soldiers for their service to our country.
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