Pinoy UnderGround >> Fil warvets get reparations
|2/16/09 8:32 AM|
Member Since: 7/27/04
posted by Kona Silat on the OG
Filipino vets to get long-awaited recognition
Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Filemon Mordeno is one of the Filipinos who served in the...
Tucked deep in the nearly 1,100-pages of the $787 billion stimulus bill is a small provision with deep meaning for thousands of Filipino Americans in the Bay Area and across the country.
The provision grants compensation for Filipinos who served in the U.S. military during World War II but were later denied the recognition and benefits of other American veterans. The surviving veterans, who are now in their 80s and 90s, will be eligible for a one-time pension payment: $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 for noncitizens.
It's the concluding episode of a decadeslong civil rights struggle to rectify a 63-year-old injustice.
"I will be happy to receive that," said San Francisco resident Filemon Mordeno, 88, who battled Japanese attackers through the dense Philippine jungle at the behest of the U.S. government.
But Mordeno expressed the urgency that pervades the quest for justice. He is one of a fast-shrinking group of about 16,000 survivors of the original 470,000 Filipino men who served in the U.S. military.
"I hope they pay up as early as possible," he said, "before we pass away."
The money is less than the roughly $900-a-month military pension afforded other low-income veterans, advocates said, but after years of congressional inaction, it was the best they thought they could get. The stimulus bill doesn't include new money but rather authorizes Congress to spend $198 million that was appropriated last year but blocked in the Senate.
"There was a lot of worry that it was going to be cut from the stimulus bill," said Eric Lachica, the son of a Filipino World War II veteran and the former director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, based in Virginia. "It has been a long, drawn-out battle."
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called soldiers in the Philippines, which was then a U.S. possession, into the service of the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East. The Filipinos swore allegiance to the United States and risked their lives fighting the Japanese.
But after the war, President Harry S. Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946, which said that the service of Filipinos did not count as U.S. military service. Filipino veterans and their advocates have been fighting to overturn the law ever since.
Little by little during the past decade, they persuaded Congress to grant Supplemental Security Income, burial benefits, Veterans Administration medical care and other veterans benefits.
"We're elated," said Rudy Asercion, a member of the American Legion War Memorial Commission in San Francisco who has long supported equity for the Filipino vets. "It's not really the money that is important; what is important is restoring the dignity and honor of these men."
The language of the stimulus bill recognizes the veterans' combat duty as "active military service in the Armed Forces" for the purposes of the benefit, but also includes a waiver stating that anyone who accepts the lump-sum pension payment is making "a complete release of any claim against the United States."
That provision sticks in the craw of Luisa Antonio, director of the San Francisco Veterans Equity Center.
"Today is a bittersweet day for me," Antonio said. "We need to do something for them, but putting that clause in really killed the hopes of our Filipino World War II vets for the full and true recognition that, 'Yes, you are a U.S. veteran.' "
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who had taken up the veterans' cause, said the provision is not exactly a job-creation measure, but including it in the stimulus bill made sense.
"Every day we wait, more and more veterans are going to pass away," he said. "I hope the remaining ones would live to remember that the U.S. finally 'fessed up to its responsibility and in some small measure recognized their contributions."
Rescission Act remembered
What: Filipino World War II veterans plan a candlelight march to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Rescission Act.
When: Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Participants will gather at the San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Ave., and walk to the War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave.
For more information: www.naffaar8.com
E-mail Tyche Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|2/16/09 2:47 PM|
Member Since: 1/1/01
This is a great thing no doubt. I just really wish they would've done this decades sooner when they were supposed to.
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