Hon. Daniel K. Inouye
Thank you for your invitation to come before your Committee and to speak in strong support for a legislative measure that you, Mr. Chairman, and I have introduced for the last several Congresses. I deeply regret that my schedule does not allow me to be physically present at your hearing. However, I wish to commend you and members of the Committee for holding this hearing on the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill. It is my sincere hope that we will be successful in the passage of the Equity Bill during the 110th Congress.
Many of you are aware of my continued advocacy on the importance in addressing the plight of the Filipino World War II veterans. As an American, I believe the treatment of Filipino World War II veterans is bleak and shameful. The Philippines became a United States possession in 1898, when it was ceded by Spain, following the Spanish-American War. In 1934, the Congress enacted the Philippine Independence Act, Public Law 73-127, which provided a 10-year time frame for the independence of the Philippines. Between 1934 and final independence in 1946, the United States retained certain powers over the Philippines, including the right to call military forces organized by the newly-formed Commonwealth government into the service of the United States Armed Forces.
The Commonwealth Army of the Philippines was called to serve with the United States Armed Forces in the Far East during World War II under President Roosevelt’s July 26, 1941 military order. The Filipinos who served were entitled to full veterans’ benefits by reason of their active service with our armed forces. Hundreds were wounded in battle and many hundreds more died in battle. Shortly after Japan’s surrender, the Congress enacted the Armed Forces Voluntary Recruitment Act of 1945 for the purpose of sending Filipino troops to occupy enemy lands, and to oversee military installations at various overseas locations. These troops were authorized to receive pay and allowances for services performed throughout the Western Pacific. Although hostilities had ceased, wartime service of these troops continued as a matter of law until the end of 1946.
Despite all of their sacrifices, on February 18, 1946, the Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, now codified as Section 107 of Title 38 of the United States Code. The 1946 Act deemed that the service performed by these Filipino veterans would not be recognized as “active service” for the purpose of any U.S. law conferring “rights, privileges, or benefits.” Accordingly, Section 107 denied Filipino veterans access to health care, particularly for non-service-connected disabilities, and pension benefits. Section 107 also limited service-connected disability and death compensation for Filipino veterans to 50 percent of what their American counterparts receive.
On May 27, 1946, the Congress enacted the Second Supplemental Surplus Appropriations Rescission Act, which duplicated the language that had eliminated Filipino veterans’ benefits under the First Rescission Act. Thus, Filipino veterans who fought in the service of the United States during World War II have been precluded from receiving most of the veterans’ benefits that had been available to them before 1946, and that are available to all other veterans of our armed forces regardless of race, national origin, or citizenship status.
The Filipino Veterans’ Equity Act, which I introduced in the U.S. Senate on January 4, 2007, would restore the benefits due to these veterans by granting full recognition of service for the sacrifices they made during World War II. These benefits include veterans’ health care, service-connected disability compensation, non-service connected disability compensation, dependent indemnity compensation, death pension, and full burial benefits.
Throughout the years, I have sponsored several measures to rectify the lack of appreciation America has shown to these gallant men and women who stood in harm's way with our American soldiers and fought the common enemy during World War II. It is time that we as a Nation recognize our long-standing history and friendship with the Philippines. Of the 120,000 that served in the Commonwealth Army during World War II, there are approximately 60,000 Filipino veterans currently residing in the United States and the Philippines. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Filipino veteran population is expected to decrease to approximately 20,000 or roughly one-third of the current population by 2010.
Heroes should never be forgotten or ignored; let us not turn our backs on those who sacrificed so much. Let us instead work to repay all of these brave men for their sacrifices by providing them the veterans', benefits they deserve.