Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today introduced legislation to right an unjust wrong in our nation's past. The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act (S. 690) would provide Filipino soldiers who defended the United States during WWII by with the full veterans' benefits that they deserve. Senator Mazie Hirono is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
"Filipino veterans who fought in World War II are American veterans and deserve to be treated fairly," Schatz said. "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."
"A promise made must be a promise kept," Speier said. "I am frankly embarrassed that we are still having this debate more than a half-century after Filipino veterans helped us win World War II. At the time, 66 countries supported the United States and all but one country's soldiers received full veterans' benefits. This is a moral issue. It is time that we make good on a promise that was broken in 1946 and treat the Filipino veterans with the honor they deserve."
During World War II, about 250,000 Filipinos volunteered to fight alongside U.S. troops. As citizens of a commonwealth of the United States before and during the war, they were promised all the benefits afforded to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. But in 1946, Congress stripped many Filipinos of the benefits that had been promised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of the 66 countries allied with the United States during World War II, only Filipinos were denied benefits.
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.
Senator Schatz's Field Representative Bryan Andaya will also present a message and a wreath at the Bataan Ceremony at Punchbowl that is scheduled for this afternoon.