SEN. CRAIG COMMITTED TO HELPING FILIPINO VETERANS
U.S. Senator Larry Craig thanked Filipino veterans who fought alongside U.S. troops during World War II during a hearing held last Thursday and said he would work to help improve the benefits they receive. Many of them had come to Washington, D.C., to participate in and witness firsthand a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
"Your service is undeniable. It is historical fact. Victory in the Pacific would not have been assured without that help," said Craig (R-Idaho), the Ranking Member of the Committee.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has maintained a Regional Office in the Philippines since 1921 and currently operates a medical clinic near the capital city of Manila. It is the only VA facility located outside of the United States. A new VA clinic will soon be built there as part of the U.S. plan to build a new embassy, which is scheduled to be completed in 2010.
The current VA clinic provides services to over 13,000 American veterans living in that island nation, as well medical care for the "Philippine Scouts" - native Filipinos who served in the U.S. Army's Philippine Department beginning in 1901 and on through World War II. Those Filipinos already receive the same benefits as other U.S. veterans.
But Craig said he will not support a new legislative proposal (S. 57) - in its current form - which would grant full VA benefits to those who served in the Philippine Commonwealth Army and to another group known as the New Philippine Scouts.
"While Filipino veterans were certainly U.S. nationals at the time of the war, a fact which heightens our obligation to them, they were also on a path to full independence as members of a sovereign nation. Yes, they fought for U.S. interests against a common enemy. But they also fought for their own homeland. As such, I believe that the governments of the Philippines and the United States collectively share responsibility for the care of these veterans," Craig said.
The Philippine government pays approximately $100 per month to its veterans who served during World War II. But if the U.S. began paying those veterans, the Philippine government would offset that nation's $100 monthly payment.
"I find that unacceptable. I am interested in improving benefits to Filipino veterans, not in merely shifting funding obligations from one nation's taxpayers to the other," Craig said.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of S. 57 at $1 billion over a ten year period, while VA officials estimate the cost could be as high as $4 billion over the same time frame.
"In times of budget deficits and with wounded coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to meet the needs of current tax payers and heroes of the present, while working to honor those who, so many years ago, fought alongside us in the cause of freedom," Craig said.