IN the few days since the signing of the veterans’ “stimulus bill” the discussion is all about the benefits: (1) if qualified dependents of veterans who died days after the bill became law can claim $ 9,000 (2) if veterans who are too ill and cannot write nor sign papers can still collect $ 9,000 through their dependents (3) if veterans who are “brain dead” (or on life-support) are qualified to receive full benefits, and (4) if application forms can be sent to claimants’ homes or hospital rooms.
Filling forms properly
Answering any of the above without full guidelines from the US Embassy may mean instant loss of benefits. The veteran, age 96, who “wrote X” shown on TV faces all the uncertainties/disqualifications.
In a previous article I ventured a guess that most living claimants fought the enemy forces in 1942 at age 18, and are now nearing 85 up. But officers born between 1910 and 1920 (89 to 99 years old) may not be alive anymore, except for very few exceptions in longevity.
Wheelchair, cane, etc.
Last week front-page pictures and news reports were about veterans limping their way asking questions about their fate. Some were on wheelchairs or leaning heavily on cheap aluminum canes and pretended to be strong and healthy.
In my town I know one qualified veteran, who is now 94 years old (born 1915, Frank Sinatra’s birth year). He taught in high school after 1945. He has no complaint except for body pains and aches common to old boys and girls in their late 80s or early 90s.
The waiting creditors/lenders
Most veterans who may get $ 9,000 expect to hold their check for a few hours/days before entrusting them to creditors (or Bombay-style lenders) who advanced cash for medicines, performance-enhancing vitamins, milk/chocolate, etc.
It is not expected that the dollar benefit will be added to their savings that don’t exist. It is doubtful that, with dozens of dependents expecting it, a large amount will be left for the remaining few years of the veteran’s misery.
Remembering their heroism?
Years ago our brave soldiers and freedom fighters stopped telling tales of bravery in battle or skirmishes between enemy and guerilla platoons. Bataan, Corregidor, Lingayen Gulf and the Leyte landing or invasion ceased to be important events or subjects as early as 30 or 40 years ago.
Only the officers of the various veterans legions, here and abroad, lobbied and waited with great expectations. But they knew the fading years and hope may end one day but not at age 80, 85, or 90.
No whistle of joy
The sick or sickly veterans who may benefit from the dollar lump-sum mostly are in dire need, but the time to whistle with joy may not come today or tomorrow. The passing years were too long to move them to “another show of gratitude” to the giver.
All the famous names who fought hard in Bataan were long gone – Napoleon Valeriano, Alfredo Santos, Carmelo Barbero were just three of the hundreds who died years ago.
Fighting under two flags
The one great trait of our veterans has a quality of its own: None of them ever complained of their suffering in total misery while waiting for any form of recompense from America. They knew they fought or died under two flags: Stars and stripes and Aguinaldo’s banner of the 1898 Republic.
The trek to 14 venues where claims are filed is just starting. It’s like “Death March” all over again.
Their one and last prayer? To live for one more year and get the final cash reward or symbol.
Those who are too infirm to remember their service to PI and America may wonder and ask: What’s the $ 9,000 for? (Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Atty. Romeo V. Pefianco
MANILA, Philippines — Filipino World War II veterans vowed to press their fight for equal recognition with their American counterparts after they were awarded $198 million in lump sum payments.
Speaking for his fellow veterans in Malacañang on Monday, retired colonel Emmanuel de Ocampo said the lump sum, which was included in the US economic stimulus law, was a “small step” towards their goal.
A veterans’ equity bill, which will recognize the efforts of Filipino soldiers during World War II, has yet to be passed before the US Congress despite a sustained lobby by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
“We will strive for a goal of equal recognition and equal consideration, to fully restore to the Filipino soldiers [the] honor, pride and dignity which were damaged by the Rescission Act,” he said, referring to a 1946 law which stripped Filipino veterans of equal treatment with their American counterparts.
“What we have today does not fully meet these aspirations. However, the Filipino veterans have respectful and grateful appreciation to those [who] worked sincerely [for the inclusion of lump sum payments in the US stimulus package],” he said.
United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney presented to Arroyo and a group of veterans at the Palace on Monday a copy of the US economic stimulus bill, which includes the $198 million for the lump sum payments — $15,000 each for those living in the US and $9,000 each for those living in the Philippines.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the lump sum payments were a “first step” towards equal recognition for Filipino veterans.
Asked if a lobby for the veterans’ equity bill would continue, he said: “I’m very sure that representations will move on. If this thing took 62 years, siyempre ipagpatuloy na natin [of course we will press on].”
Stimulus package somewhat fulfills wartime promise
MANILA, Philippines—The US Congress approved on Friday the stimulus bill, a $787-billion package of tax cuts and fresh spending to salvage the broken American economy, handing US President Barack Obama his biggest political victory yet.
The bill contains a provision recognizing the military service of Filipino veterans of World War II and granting a tax-free lump sum of $15,000 to those who are based in the United States and $9,000 to those living in the Philippines.
The Department of Foreign Affairs estimates the number of surviving Filipino veterans at 18,000-20,000, of whom 13,000 are based in the Philippines.
More than 250,000 Filipinos served alongside US soldiers to defend the Philippines from the 1941 Japanese invasion and resist the subsequent Japanese occupation.
The US government had promised Filipinos they could qualify for full US veterans’ benefits if they served. But after the war, the US Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, stripping Filipino veterans of their status as US veterans.
This denied Filipinos the benefits they were promised.
Since then, Filipino veterans have campaigned for recognition as US veterans to receive benefits.
“Despite America’s economic challenges, the US Congress voted to correct a historic wrong and incorporate the lump-sum benefit for our veterans,” President Macapagal-Arroyo said in a statement issued in Manila.
Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime supporter of Filipino veterans, had earlier said the stimulus measure would provide $198 million for one-time payments to the Filipinos.
Despite Obama’s early bipartisan goals, Republican opposition was nearly unanimous to the $787-billion package of tax cuts, aid to hard-hit Americans, and investment in infrastructure, education and energy.
Conservatives in both houses of the US Congress have been relentless critics, arguing that the plan is filled with wasteful spending and that greater tax cuts would be more effective in creating jobs.
Told that no House Republican backed the measure on Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reacted by citing another number—“3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating.”
The stimulus bill includes spending on infrastructure projects, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses and billions to help strapped states.
The much touted tax break for middle- and working-class Americans survived but was scaled back.
Obama also won money for two other administration priorities—information technology in health care, and “green jobs” to make buildings more energy-efficient and reduce the United States’ reliance on foreign oil.
The final details of the bill included the drafting of precise language on trade.
The House included a “Buy America” restriction forbidding the use of foreign steel and other products on infrastructure projects funded in the bill. Negotiators were largely going with a Senate version that is much less restrictive, saying the US government would abide by its international trade commitments.
The bill’s approval caps an early period of accomplishment for the Democrats, who won control of the White House and expanded their majorities in Congress in the November elections.
Since taking office on Jan. 20, Obama has signed legislation extending government-financed health care to millions of lower-income children who lack it, a bill that President George W. Bush twice vetoed.
Obama has also put his signature on a measure making it easier for workers to sue their employers for alleged job discrimination, effectively overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. With reports from Cynthia D. Balana in Manila, AFP, Inquirer wires