NEW BILL GIVES HOPE TO FILIPINO VETERANS

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 16, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino World War II veterans have a reason to hope this year. U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) crossed party lines to introduce a bill that would establish an appeals process for Filipino veterans, who were previously denied their lump sum benefits.

Some 18,698 elderly veterans have filed and received lump sum claims–$15,000 for American citizens and $9,000 for non-American citizens. But 24,385 were denied their benefits, after their services could not be verified by the Missouri List, an army list that is incomplete, after a fire destroyed parts of it in the 70s.

The new legislation called The Filipino Veterans Promise Act gives these veterans the chance to have their records examined and verified by military historians, so they can receive benefits.

It took two years for 89-year old Lourdes Poblete, one of the few remaining female Filipino veterans, to receive her lump sum benefit.

She said many of the comrades have died, waiting for something they’ve deserved for a long time. “We fought for freedom. I think Filipinos deserve a little compensation,” Poblete said.

A prisoner of war, she spoke before young people at the headquarters of the United Playaz, a Filipino-led anti-violence non-profit group. She spoke about her traumatic experiences, seeing comrades get tortured, or lose their lives.

Cecila Gaerlan, a daughter of a Filipino veteran and Death March survivor, wrote the book, “In Her Mother’s Image”, which talks about the sacrifices Filipino veterans made in the name of freedom and democracy.

She applauded the authors of the new bipartisan bill.
“We must set aside all our differences — cultural, economic, regional. We must join hands to make sure this bill passes,” she said.

The Filipino Veterans Promise Act is expected to be heard in a committee hearing in Washington in June. For now, Filipino veterans and their advocates are just hoping that reward for their sacrifices will soon be within reach.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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