WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 9, 2013) — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and other Congressional leaders on Tuesday introduced the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act.
More than 200,000 Filipinos fought with the United States during World War II, and over half were killed. As citizens of a commonwealth of the U.S. before and during the war, Filipinos were legally American nationals, and were promised the same benefits afforded to members of the U.S. military.
In 1946, however, Congress passed the Rescission Act, which stripped Filipino veterans of these promised benefits. The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier in the House and Senator Brian Schatz in the U.S. Senate, seeks to make all Filipino veterans fully eligible for the benefits that they were promised, and that U.S veterans already receive.
The introduction of Filipino Veterans Fairness Act coincides with the 71st anniversary of Bataan Day.The fall of Bataan marked the largest surrender in American military history since the Civil War’s Battle of Harper’s Ferry, but it also delayed the momentum of the Japanese invasion of the Pacific and prevented a complete takeover by the Axis forces.
About 63,000 Filipino and 12,000 American soldiers were forced to march 60 miles to reach their prison camps. Some 15,000 died during what is known as the Bataan Death March.
CAPAC Members released the following statements:
Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “Filipino veterans defended our country with bravery, just like their American counterparts, and they deserve the status and benefits that they were promised over 65 years ago. There are an estimated 15,000 surviving Filipino veterans of World War II. For the sake of these veterans and their families, we must act now and fulfill our promises while we still have time.”
Senator Brian Schatz (HI): “Filipino veterans who fought in World War II are American veterans and deserve to be treated fairly. These veterans and their families have waited for decades to receive the compensation that they deserve, and it is unacceptable for our country to deny them these benefits for their service. I call on my colleagues in Congress to join me in moving swiftly to pass this legislation so that we can finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for thousands of veterans across the country, and fully honor the men and women who served our country so bravely in a time of war.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14): “A promise made must be a promise kept. I am frankly embarrassed that we are still having this debate more than a half-century after Filipino veterans helped us win World War II. At the time, 66 countries supported the United States and all but one country’s soldiers received full veterans’ benefits. This is a moral issue. It is time that we make good on a promise that was broken in 1946 and treat the Filipino veterans with the honor they deserve.”
Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “Time is running out for Congress to fully recognize the service of the over 250,000 Filipinos who answered President Roosevelt’s call to defend democracy in the Pacific region during World War II. They fought valiantly along American forces and deserve to be treated as U.S. veterans with full benefits, as they were promised. I stand committed to working to see the sacrifice of these brave veterans recognized by our country, and express my deepest appreciation for their service.”
Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair: “On the anniversary of Bataan Day, we remember all those who lost their lives in the Fall of Bataan during World War II, including the Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side against the invasion of Imperialist Japanese forces. As we reflect on this demonstration of the enduring friendship between the United States and the Philippines, we also take note that Filipino veterans have not received the benefits promised to them. I thank Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California for her leadership on working to make these Filipino veterans eligible for the same benefits other U.S. veterans receive.”
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (AS): “I stand in strong support of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013, a bill that restores due honor to our Filipino veterans who fought in defense of the United States during World War II. These veterans played a vital role in protecting our nation. Yet many who survived the war have lived over six decades without the veteran benefits promised to them. As we honor Bataan Day and the many heroes who died for our freedom, let us remember their sacrifice as we seek to right this wrong.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02): “The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act upholds our commitments to the courageous Filipino veterans who served honorably alongside American troops in World War II. These veterans were promised the same benefits as the U.S. forces they served with. This provides long overdue recognition of the sacrifices they made in combat by finally providing the benefits they earned.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): “During World War II, Filipino veterans risked their lives as Americans, side-by-side with American troops in the Pacific Theatre. To treat them any differently by denying them full benefits is unconscionable and unacceptable. They deserve equal treatment and equal benefits for their sacrifice; they need to be honored like the heroes they are.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28): “I am proud to co-sponsor this important legislation to right the wrongs of the past, and fully recognize the extraordinary service of many thousands of Filipino veterans from World War II and their families. We must acknowledge the sacrifices and vital contributions of the Filipinos who fought in the Armed Forces in the Pacific by making all Filipino veterans fully eligible for veterans’ benefits, just like we have for every other veteran.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15): “I am proud to co-sponsor the Filipino Veterans Fair Act to ensure Filipino veterans receive the benefits they earned fighting for our country. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino bravely fought in defense of the United States and our freedoms in WWII. They and their families deserve the benefits promised to them decades ago.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.