After US House R-Chairman Jeff Miller of the district of Pensacola, Florida denied request for a committee hearing on HR 210, “The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011,” veterans decided to end the 20-year Congressional lobbying for equity, and surrenderred war medals and military uniforms back to the US government.
“Other bills with thirteen, six, or even zero cosponsors got public hearings—but not to an equity bill that would give honor and dignity to Filipino veterans,” said Felino Punsalan, 96.
Miller’s office did not respond to the August 15 deadline set by the veterans—the same day as the anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the victory of the Allies in the Pacific and WW II. Regalado Baldonado, Commissioner for Veterans Affairs for San Francisco County said, “That for us is a clear rejection of our request. The 100-year old veteran in Nevada just had a stroke. We have no time to further wait after 66 years.”
“Despite 96 bipartisan cosponsors, letters from Reps. Bob Filner and Joe Heck, pressure from Pensacola Filipino Republicans, Miller whose district are 20% veterans, remain silent on the appeal for immediate committee hearing,” said Ago Pedalizo, pro bono lobbyist who flew to Pensacola to organize local support for the bill.
Some 250,000 Filipinos were commissioned by President Roosevelt before the war and were promises equal recognition and benefits as any American veterans. In 1946, the US Congress through the Rescission Act took away the recognition of US military service of the Filipinos, out of the 66 allied nationalities that served the US.
In the Enhanced GI Bill of 2008, for the second time in history, the Filipinos were singled out not to receive equal benefits.
The Fight Continues
“We will end the lobbying after 20 years but our fight does not end there. We will still pursue the lawsuit now at the Court of Appeals and support the appeal for Executive Order for the veterans who were denied of lump sum benefit in 2008,” said Art Garcia, national coordinator of Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV).
Advocates during the nationwide conference of equity advocates from Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Baltimore, Seattle, and San Francisco vowed to continue fight despite denial of committee hearing.
To date, there are 24,000 veterans who were denied of the lump sum benefit provided in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2008.