Hearing affirms Chairman's belief that Filipino WWII veterans who served under U.S. Command must be recognized as U.S. veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, held a hearing today on the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007 (S. 57). This legislation would extend veterans status to all Filipino veterans who fought under the command of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. Under current law, some, but not all, Filipino veterans are provided with the benefits afforded to U.S. veterans.
"Filipinos served under the command of the U.S. military during World War II, fighting for our county and their freedom. They most certainly are U.S. veterans, and deserve recognition for their service," Akaka said. During the hearing Akaka expressed his strong belief that it is wrong to deny Filipino veterans equal benefits when they served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Committee heard testimony from Hawaii's senior Senator, Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), the sponsor of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007. "As an American, I believe the treatment of Filipino World War II veterans is bleak and shameful. It is time that we as a Nation recognize our long-standing history and friendship with the Philippines," Inouye said in his testimony today.
Testimony was also heard from the Honorable Willy C. Gaa, Philippine Ambassador to the United States; Mr. Ronald R. Aument, VA's Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits; Ms. Maria Luisa Antonio, Executive Director, Veterans Equity Center; Mr. Sidath Panangala, Congressional Research Service; Ms. Jenah Yangwas, Student Action for Veterans Equity; four Filipino World War II veterans, Mr. Manuel Braga (Commander, Filipino WWII Veterans Federation of San Diego County), Mr. Artemio Caleda (President, WWII Filipino American Veterans and Auxiliary of Hawaii), Mr. Patrick Ganio, Sr. (President, American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc. whose testimony presented by Mr. Avelio Asuncion); and Mr. Benito Valdez (Filipino Community of Seattle); and LTC Edwin Ramsey, U.S. Army (RET), a U.S. World War II veteran who served in the Philippines and who testified via video.
A list of witnesses and their statements can be found on the committee's web site:
Chairman Akaka's opening statement is copied below:
Aloha. I am pleased to welcome all of the witnesses to this long-awaited hearing on the veteran status of Filipinos who fought alongside the United States military during World War II. I thank especially those of you who have traveled long distances to be with us here today.
In the sixty-two years since the end of the Second World War, Filipino veterans have worked tirelessly to secure the veterans status they were promised when they agreed to fight under U.S. command in defense of their homeland and to protect U.S. interests in the region. Today, I am happy to say, many Filipino veterans enjoy eligibility to benefits and health care services as U.S. veterans. However, as our distinguished witnesses here today will remind us, there is still work to be done in order to extend these eligibilities to all of those who served alongside the United States military during the World War II.
There remains a distinction in law between those Filipino veterans who served in the Old Philippine Scouts and those who served in the Filipino Commonwealth Army, the Recognized Guerilla forces, or the New Philippine Scouts. Unlike those who served as Old Philippine Scouts, those in the other three groups are not eligible for all VA benefits under the same criteria that applies to veterans of U.S. military service. And, perhaps more importantly, this means they are not officially acknowledged by the United States government as true veterans.
My colleague and good friend from Hawaii, Senator Daniel Inouye, has introduced legislation which will end this distinction and, at long last, recognize and honor these brave men as U.S. veterans of World War II. Senator Inouye's bill, the "Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007" would constitute the final gesture in granting full veteran status to the brave Filipinos who served under U.S. command during the Second World War.
There is a long and amiable history between the United States and the Philippines dating back to 1898, when the Philippine Islands were ceded from Spain following the Spanish American War. When called upon by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight under U.S. command against the Japanese occupation, the organized armed forces of the Philippines fought bravely and honorably. They fought for the cause of freedom, their own independence, and out of loyalty to the United States.
In the decades since the end of World War II and the establishment of the independent Republic of the Philippines, the tradition of goodwill between the people of the United States and the Philippines has continued. In my home state of Hawaii, I have seen first hand the invaluable contributions that Filipino-Americans have made to the rich cultural texture of this country.
The Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007 would honor the service of all Filipino veterans of World War II by formally recognizing the contributions of our Filipino brethren from the "Greatest Generation." This hearing is an important first step in that recognition coming to fruition.
I again thank our witness and I look forward to today's testimony.
TV stations: A 5-minute VNR from the hearing is available now on PATHFIRE
Radio stations: A 5-minute mp3 file from the hearing is available at this address:
VNR & mp3 include sound from (in this order):
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)
Chairman, Veterans' Affairs Committee
Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
Sponsor of Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007
H.E. Willy C. Gaa
Philippine Ambassador to the United States
Student Action for Veterans Equity
(she's the granddaughter of a Filipino WWII veteran who belongs to a student group that has a MySpace page on the issue:) http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=94598264