The following is Congresswoman Lofgren’s testimony on H.R. 4094, a bill to extend veteran’s benefits to Filipino soldiers who fought on the side of the United States during World War II.
“More than 60 years ago, on July 26, 1941, brave Filipino men answered President Roosevelt’s call to arms and served with great distinction in our war in the South Pacific against the Japanese. They didn’t hesitate nor did they ask what was in it for them. The Japanese were particularly cruel to Filipino soldiers, punishing them more harshly for having the courage to stand with America. Indeed, many historians have credited their service with having helped to turn the tide in our favor against the Japanese.
“What was their reward for answering President Roosevelt’s call? They were abandoned, their sacrifices disgraced as the US denied them the same rights that had been given to other World War II veterans. Before the “Rescission Act,” enacted on February 18, 1946, these soldiers were considered U.S. veterans by VA laws.
“According to a US Department of Veteran Affairs Study released in January 2001 there were 13,849 Filipino vets residing in the US, and some 46,000 living in the Philippines. Today, there are only about 12,000 veterans left in the US and about 35,000 in the Philippines. I have met with many of these veterans who have settled in my district, in and around San Jose, California. Whenever I meet with them, I am always been impressed by how these proud men still believe they will achieve justice, even in the twilight of their lives.
“How can we help achieve the justice they earned with their blood and sacrifice? We can correct this injustice by officially acknowledging their honorable service during World War II. We can help them to receive the full veterans benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs they fought for.
“U.S. law argues that they deserve the benefits they seek. Because of the 1990 Immigration and Naturalization Act, some 26,000 of these veterans were naturalized in recognition of their honorable service in World War II. As a result of Public Law 106-419, Filipino veterans who reside in the U.S. may be eligible for full VA burial benefits. If we can recognize their service at the time of their death, why can’t we recognize their service while they are still alive?
“These men have earned VA health care at VA hospitals, outpatient clinics and nursing homes in the U.S. as well as a clinic in Manila. I congratulate my colleagues, subcommittee chairman, Mr. Moran of Kansas and subcommittee ranking member, Mr. Filner of California for their dedicated efforts to address this inequity. I am proud to support these brave men and I urge this committee to act favorably on this important legislation.”