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Major Victory for Filipino Vets with US Senate Passing Veterans Equity Bill

n April 24, 2008 U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Author of the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007the United States Senate passed the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, by a vote of 96 to 1. If that bill sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka [D, HI] becomes law, it will go a long way in rectifying the injustice caused by the Rescission Act of 1946. The Rescission Act which was signed into law by President Truman stripped Filipino veterans of their status as “US veterans” and rendered them ineligible for veterans' benefits. Sadly, only Filipino veterans were accorded this indignity as soldiers of other nationalities who fought as members of the US Armed Forces during World War II received full veterans' benefits.

As backgrounder, it is important to note that our aging Filipino veterans were in effect "drafted" into service by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who issued an executive order in 1941 calling "all organized military forces of the government of the Philippines into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States." With that executive order, over two hundred thousand Filipinos suddenly became part of the United States military. Filipinos Being Executed by Decapitation. Pictures From Bataan and POW Camps 1942-1945 (James Litton Collection).And Filipinos fought with valor and heroism, earning the respect and admiration of their American allies.

Many Filipinos paid the ultimate price for their resistance; many more suffered unspeakable hardship and pain at the hands of their Japanese tormentors. But they all did it because they believed in freedom, liberty and the ideals that the United States of America stood for. and it is thus all the more heartbreaking that these patriots have been made to endure sixty years of injustice and indignity by the United States Government.

It is estimated that by 2010, there will be less than 20,000 veterans left, most in their late eighties or nineties. For many, it has simply been too late. But for the few surviving veterans, we owe it to them to stand by them and rectify the injustice of the last six decades. The United States House of Representatives now has to pass a similar bill. Filipino & American Veterans at Camp O'Donnell Memorial Dedication, April 7, 2000Luckily, US Representative Bob Filner, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs is a staunch supporter of the Filipino veterans' cause and has authored the house version of the bill (H.R. 760). It is now time join hands and make our voices heard. After years of frustration and false starts, it appears that the US Congress is finally moving on this issue. Filipino-Americans must keep this issue alive by writing, calling, faxing or emailing their Congressional Representative and insist they vote for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007 (H.R. 760). It is the least we can do to to honor our veterans.

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