Primer on HR 210: The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011

Primer on HR 210: The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011

JFAV UPDATE

(NOTE: The JFAV has published this primer on HR 210 to unite all forces, veterans and advocates for our campaign to gain recognition, achieve justice and equity for Filipino World War II veterans and all their survivors (widows, chidlren and relatives). Please take time to study and discuss this primer and widely disseminate to the general public.

Primer on HR 210: The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011

1. Q: What does HR 210 seek to get?

    A: HR 210 seeks to:

1. Repeal Rescission Act of 1946, which stripped the Pilipino WW II veterans full recognition as American veterans. HR 210 intends to restore full military benefits to the veterans and their families including monthly lifetime pensions -- much like all American military veterans.

2. Include all widows/children as beneficiaries.

3. Expand the eligibility for benefits to include all military records that reference to the US military service of the Pilipinos within and outside of the US official army personnel list, otherwise known as “Missouri List;”

4. Repeal the “quit claim” or the waiver of rights to receive full benefits upon acceptance of one time lump sum provided in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund (FVEC) (Speier, 2011).

2. Q: Pilipinos received lump sum of $15,000 or $9,000 two years ago in “recognition” of their US military service. Isn’t this enough?

    A: There are many facts and provisions in the FVEC that render it unjust, arbitrary and dubious:

1. Only 42% of the 41,000 who applied received the lump sum, partly because the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) used the “Missouri List” as basis of eligibility. In 1973, the list was gutted down in a fire destroying as much as 80% of the military records of Army personnel from 1912 to 1960 including those who fought during WW II.

2. Most widows were excluded as beneficiaries.

3. There was disparity between the lump sum of US citizen vs. non-US citizens i.e. $15,000 vs. $9,000.

4. The FVEC provides that upon acceptance of the lumps sum, the veteran “surrenders” rights to receive future benefits. Out of ignorance of the law and duress due to poverty, poor health and old age, many veterans received the lump sum (Valera & Tomas, 2010).

Lump sum at its finest is not full equity.

3. Q: The US has provided the Pilipinos rights for naturalization in 1992 and healthcare, burial and SSI benefits in the last ten years. Are they being “ingratiates” by asking for more?

    A: No. In reality, the Pilipino veterans are fighting for a basic right for full recognition and full benefits that the US government failed to grant them for the last 65 years. The political concessions in the form of partial and fringe benefits, without lifetime monthly pensions do not in any way constitute full equity with all American veterans.

4. Q: The Pilipinos fought for their land, the Philippines, not America during WW II. Why should the US consider them as “American veterans?”

    A: The Philippines before and during the war was part of the Commonwealth of the US. Pilipinos were American nationals. Then US President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the Pilipinos to join the US Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE) with a solemn promise that they will be treated as American veterans with all the benefits that they duly deserve. The Rescission Act of 1946 by the US Congress violated this contract. (Garcia, 2010)

5. Q: What are the chances of HR 210 getting approved in Congress?

    A: Much like the WW II that was fought in an uphill battle but eventually won, HR 210 will face challenges but the justness of the cause will always prevail at all times. Filipino Veterans Fairness Act was always introduced since 1993. In 1996, with only short of few votes, a bill was almost passed. In 2007, SB 1315 was approved unanimously in the Senate with 96-1 vote. To the last drop, Pilipino veterans and the American public must fight for full equity.

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing. Good things never die.

6. Q: President Obama submitted to Congress a $3.7 trillion budget for 2012 that will rein in current deficit. The US is bankrupt right now with a deficit that is 98% of the GDP (OMB, 2011), and has no money for additional entitlement. Is it improper to even discuss HR 210 right now?

    A: The pension benefits for Pilipino veterans are not an entitlement. The US owes the Pilipinos their due benefits because of their gallantry and patriotism that brought decisive and overwhelming victory to the US. The Pilipinos are not even demanding a payback of all the denied benefits for the last 65 years! They are simply asking for the benefits for the remaining years of their life. In short, this is less of the financial benefits but more of the full recognition and full honor of their service as full American veterans.

The war in Iraq that no one can claim as victorious will cost an amount of $663 billion for lifetime benefits of veterans (Bilmes & Stiglitz, 2008). The Pilipino veterans for the first year -- for serving in a war that brought complete victory to the US -- should HR 210 be enacted into law will only incur less than 1% of the amount allocated to Iraq veterans.

The US has the money, and has always had the money, for veterans. Even during the economic crisis of 1870’s and 1890’s, the US compensated the Civil War veterans from both the Confederacy and the Union during the war of 1861-1864 (Zinn, 2003)

After WW II, the US suffered from recession and the GDP fell to -12%. The deficit was 120% of the GDP (Zarnowitz, 1996, NBER, 2010), but the US provided around $14 billion to the 66 allied nationalities who served the US with the exception of the Pilipinos.

On February 2011, Obama has allocated $58.8 billion budget for the DVA for operational cost and additional $65.5 billion for veterans’ benefits (OMB, 2011). The real question is: Does the US have the moral integrity to honor a social contract to recognize the Pilipinos as American veterans—after 65 years of denial?

If other American veterans are getting full benefits, why can’t the Pilipinos? They were denied full recognition first time in 1946 Rescission Act and second time in 2008 when $250 billion was allocated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan including benefits to veterans.

The Vietnam War was a miserable loss to the US. Returning American veterans got full benefits. Korean War was a stalemate and still unresolved to this day. Current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a quagmire at best. But the veterans of all these wars got lifetime full benefits, anyhow.

WW II was an overwhelming military victory to the US and shaped the “best generation” of the American society. Then, why would the US deny the recognition to the Pilipino soldiers who fought for that victory with their flesh and blood?


Restore the honor, dignity and benefits for the Pilipino WW II veterans and their survivors!


Recognition, Equity, and Justice, Now!




Contacts:
Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV), Association of Widows, Advocates and Relatives for Equality (AWARE), and Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC)

E-mail: unrecognizedvets@yahoo.com

Phones: (213) 241-0995, (703) 273-1196
 

References:

  • Speier, Jackie (2011). HR 210: Filipino Fairness Act of 2011. Retrieved from www.house.gov.
  • Valera, Arnedo & Tomas, Eleuterio (2010) Recinto et al vs. US DVA Complaint for Declaratory, Mandamus, and Injunctive Relief filed at the US District Court of Northern District of Northern California.
  • Garcia, Arturo (2009). Unrecognized American Veterans: Memory, History, and Equity for Filipino WW II Veterans. ISBN: 978-0-9841220-1-1
  • Office of Management and Budget (2011). Budget of the Unites States Government, Fiscal Year 2012. Retrieved from www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/overview.
  • Zinn, Howard (2003). A People’s History of the United States. ISBN: 0-06-052837-0
  • Zarnowitz, Victor (1996). Business Cycles: Theory, History, Indicators, and Forecasting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0226978915
  • 2010 Business Cycle Dating Committee (Sept., 2010). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html.
  • Bilmes, Linda & Stiglitz, Joseph (2008). The Three Trillion War: The True Cost of the Iraq War. ISBN: 978-0-39-39-306701-9.