Hon. Neil Abercrombie,
Chairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer, and Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, thank you for allowing me to come before you today to express my deep support for H.R. 760, the “Filipino Veterans’ Equity Act of 2007.”
The treatment of Filipinos who fought with the United States Armed Forces in World War II is a black spot in American History. The Philippines became a United States possession after Spain ceded it as part of the treaty ending the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1934, Congress created a 10-year time frame for independence through the “Philippine Independence Act.” However, since the Philippines remained a colonial possession until 1946 the United States retained the right to call upon military forces organized by the Philippine Government into the United States Armed Forces.
On July 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a military order that brought the Philippine Commonwealth Forces under the control of the United States Armed Forces during World War II. These men bravely fought with our own troops during the war, and many perished or suffered severe wounds from the battles in the Western pacific Theater. After the surrender of Japan, Congress required the Philippine Forces to continue service their service. Many helped occupy lands, many oversaw military operations, and many made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our victory in World War II. Yet, when wartime service ended formally in 1946 they did not receive the same benefits and the same treatment as other American soldiers.
Yet, for all their heroic and courageous actions, Congress passed the “Recession Act” in February 1946. This essentially denied Filipino Veterans any of the benefits that their American comrades in arms received; including full access to veterans’ health care, service-connected disability compensation, non-service connected disability compensation, dependent indemnity compensation, death pension, and full burial benefits. No other group of veterans has been systematically denied these benefits.
Congress has the opportunity to right this wrong. The bill before the Committee, H.R. 760, restores the benefits these brave warriors were denied. This legislation has been introduced since 1992. However, time is running out. In September 2000, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that the number of surviving Filipino Veterans were 59,889. However, by 2010, VA estimates that their population will dwindle to just 20,000, because of their advanced age.
I, along with other members of the Hawaii Delegation support this important piece of legislation. Congress must act now for the sake of justice and to show that we Americans truly appreciate the sacrifice these men made. These heroes cannot be forgotten; they should not be dishonored. I urge the committee to consider this bill and to report it to the House floor.