US Lawmakers Introduce Fil Vet Bills At Public Hearings

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) —  United States Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) told his colleagues before the Senate Veterans Committee Tuesday (June 12) that while he is introducing S. 868, The Filipino Veterans Promise Act, it will only honor those Filipino World War II “veterans who served and will not provide benefits to any person who did not.”

At the same time, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) also introduced before the same committee The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, S. 690, that will overturn the 1946 Rescission Acts and grant full benefits to Filipino veterans.

S. 868 will to require the Secretary of Defense to establish whether individuals claiming certain service in the Philippines during World War II are eligible for certain benefits despite not being on the Missouri List. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Maize Hirono (D-HI).

Its counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1855, was introduced by Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa (D-HI-1st) and was referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. It has gained 18 cosponsors.

Before he opened his sponsorship remarks, Heller recognized the presence of Filipino veteran Celestino Almeda, 96, who thanked him for sponsoring the Filipino Veterans Promise Act. “Mr. Almeda, thank you for being here today. Thank you for your service,” Heller said.  Almeda’s claim for benefits for the Filipino Veterans Compensation Fund was denied because his name was not in the Missouri List but was found in the U.S. Army List. He filed an appeal.

Heller, a junior senator from Nevada said, “this legislation is bipartisan and bicameral. U.S. should recognize every individual, who served our nation. They should be properly recognized for their contribution to our nation.

FILVETS NO ACCESS TO PERSONAL MILITARY FILES

“There is no doubt, they served honorably in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, the Recognized Guerillas and the New Philippine Scouts alongside U.S. troops during World War II. Today, many (Filipino) veterans have no verified service. The NPRC (National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri) uses only evidence approved by U.S. Army. They (the Filipino veterans) have no access to consolidated personal military files for most individuals, who served in Philippine Army or Guerilla unit.”

The Act mandates the Department of Defense to open the Approved Reconstructed Guerilla Roster of 1948, also known as ‘Missouri List,’ to give veterans opportunity to prove their service.

He paid tribute to Rep. Hanabusa, who, like him, feels the Filipino veterans (more than 24,000) deserve better process to adjudicate their claims, whose recognition and benefits were denied under the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) of 2009. “This calls for the U.S. Army to verify service, which is an added protection to ensure that hard-earned benefits are going to those who earned them. Any person, who served our country in battle and not receiving his benefits should be an outrage.”

Heller said Las Vegas has a large Filipino population and a number of Filipino veterans seeking recognition. They are a respected part of the community and deserve a fair and complete examination of record.”

A related bill, H.R. 481, introduced by Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV-3rd) with nine cosponsors directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to accept certain documents as proof of service in determining the eligibility of an individual to receive amounts from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund of ARRA and for other purposes.

“These bills should address the 24,812 denied claims and 4,525 appeals, like the case of Mr. Celestino Almeda, 96, our spokesman,” said Filipino veterans advocate, Eric Lachica of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans. “We deeply appreciate your leadership and today’s committee’s hearing and the mark up in July of the Schatz and Heller bills. We applaud you – our champions and bipartisan co-sponsors. We urge Congress to pass this legislation to fix a historical wrong by correcting an incomplete list of our heroes.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Schatz’ S. 690, Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, has attracted three cosponsors in Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Maize Hirono (D-HI), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and its counterpart in the House H.R. 1452 introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) has collected 35 cosponsors. H.R. 1452 has been referred to Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

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PHOTO CAPTIONS:

COMMITTEE HEARING: Sen. Brian Schatz (right, foreground) (D-HI) is shown delivering his remarks Tuesday (June 12) before the Senate Veterans committee hearing as he pitched for S. 690, Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, that will overturn the Recession Acts of 1946. It would grant full benefits to Filipino World War II veterans. Behind him listening is Filipino WW II veteran Celestino Almeda, 96, who lost his claim for Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund of ARRA of 2009 and has filed an appeal. (ACFV photo by Eric Lachica)

 


THANK YOU SENATOR:
Celestino Almeda (extreme left), 96, thanked Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) for sponsoring the Filipino Veterans Promise Act. Almeda presented an American flag tie to the Senator as a token of appreciation. He was accompanied by Capt. Georgette Beltran (extreme right), a retired US Army chaplain and an immigrant from the Philippines. Almeda hoped the Senator could wear the flag on July 4th, which happens to be Philippine American Friendship Day – the anniversary when the U.S. granted full independence to the Philippines in 1946. Senator Heller delivered a sponsorship pitch for the bill, S. 686, before the Senate Veterans Committee Tuesday (June 12). (ACFV photo by Eric Lachica)

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