SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCBENEFITS FOR FILIPINO VETERANS
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 1998
House of Representatives,
Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Bob Stump (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Stump, Quinn, Stearns, Cooksey, Evans, Kennedy, Filner, Gutierrez, Brown, and Doyle.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN STUMP
The CHAIRMAN (presiding). The meeting will please come to order, and we may be a couple of minutes early here, I mean, from waiting for our caucus to break up, but we have to get started. A couple other people have markups.
The committee will come to order.
We are meeting today to hear testimony regarding the benefits currently provided to veterans of the Philippine armed forces by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I want to welcome today's witnesses and express the appreciation of the entire committee for your contribution to this process.
We have many witnesses this morning, so I necessarily will have to insist on a strict 5 minutes on the rule. I'm speaking for both oral statements of the witnesses and members of the committee to ask questions of the various panels.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Veterans of the Philippine armed services believe that either President Roosevelt or General MacArthur promised them full U.S. veterans' benefits. However, we will hear today testimony from the Army historians and the Congressional Research Service who are unable to locate any documentation of such promises.
Members should also understand that this matter is not a simple issue. There are different categories of Filipino veterans, some of who receive full U.S. benefits, but most who don't. You have the material in your folders identifying these distinctions.
In my meetings with veterans of the Philippine armed services and representatives of their groups, it's been made clear to me that many Filipino veterans do not understand that most World War II veterans who served in the Philippines or other theaters and campaigns receive no payments from the VA.
Many also do not understand what benefits are already available to them in various categories for Filipino veterans.
As a result of our meetings, I corresponded last year with Secretary-Designate Gober requesting that the VA regional offices improve their outreach efforts to veterans of the Philippine armed services to make sure that more of them became informed on what was already available to them.
For fiscal year 1998, the VA estimates payments to veterans of the Philippine armed forces and their survivors will total nearly $55 million. This includes disability compensation, clothing allowance, and dependency and indemnity compensation.
In terms of average annual income in the Philippines and the United States, Filipino veterans are treated better than most U.S. veterans. A Filipino veteran with only a 20 percent service-connected disability receives the equivalent of the average income for citizens of the Philippines. While an American veteran with a 20 percent disability receives compensation amounting to only about 8 percent of the average income. A 100 percent service-connected Filipino veteran receives about 11 times the Philippine annual income.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program, payments to survivors of Filipino veterans, is $416 a month, or about five times what the average income is in the Philippines.
Much is also made of the presumption that since the Philippines was a territory of the United States at the beginning of World War II, these veterans of the Philippine armed services must have been serving under the U.S. flag and deserve full U.S. veterans' benefits.
I don't know how this can be exactly true when the GI Bill, under the veterans' benefits, was not even established until the 1950's.
In 1934, the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines was established in preparation for Philippine independence. The Philippine Independence Act of 1934 also gave the President of the United States the authority to call the Philippine National Army into service under U.S. command, but that is not the same as serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Soldiers of many World War II allied armies served under U.S. command but do not receive any benefit from the VA.
While Filipino forces fought bravely and certainly aided the U.S. in the war effort, in the end they fought for their own and soon to be independent Philippine nation.
It is also worth noting that since the end of World War II, Congress has enacted nearly 20 public laws affecting benefits for veterans of the Philippine armed forces, but had made no major change in the benefit structure now in place. The courts have upheld that basic benefit structure on at least two occasions.
However, Congress has passed provisions over the years to address the differences between economic conditions and living standards in the United States and in the Philippines.
The VA has a legislative proposal now that would change the service-connected compensation payments to veterans of the Philippine armed forces now living in the United States to bring these payments in line with payments to U.S. veterans.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We're going to look into that and into other affordable proposals and see what we may be able to re-justify.
Now I would recognize the ranking minority member, Mr. Evans, for any comments that he would like to make.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Stump appears on p. 129.]
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LANE EVANS
Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this very important hearing.
Today this committee will exercise its unique responsibility to review and evaluate actions taken over the past 50 years by the United States Government, actions which have profoundly affected the lives and destinies of hundreds of thousands of Filipino veterans of World War II and their families.
It is my belief that some decisions made by earlier Congresses regarding the status of Filipino veterans, men who fought valiantly and bravely, shoulder-to shoulder-with American forces, were to say the least, ill-advised. Particularly offensive to me, and I'm sure to the Filipino veterans of World War II, was the language in the Rescission Act of 1946 which said that service in the Philippine Forces was not to be considered active military service for the purposes of veterans' benefits.
This language must have shocked and puzzled the Filipino soldiers who had been called into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States in 1941 by President Roosevelt and who served under the direct command of General Douglas MacArthur. It surely must have shocked and puzzled the thousands of Filipinos who, along with their American comrades suffered brutality, starvation, and disease, at the hands of the Japanese during the Bataan Death March and afterwards in Camp O'Donnell, the prisoner of war camp.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I said earlier, this is a very important hearing. There are wrongs to be righted, and I hope what we will hear today will help us determine how best to make those decisions and to correct those wrongs.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me say that much has been made about whether General MacArthur made a commitment regarding veterans' benefits to Filipino veterans.
Frankly, Mr. Chairman, with due respect to General MacArthur, what he said or didn't say is largely irrelevant. What is important is that the service rendered by Filipino veterans and our recognition of their service be approved at this time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Evans.
The chair will deviate from normal procedure and allow the other members to make a short statement if they want to. But first I'd like to go to our Member witnesses. A couple of them have markups, and then I'll come back to that.
Mr. Gilman, I know you're senior and chairman, but if you would allow Mr. Cunningham to go first, he has a markup immediately after.
Mr. Cunningham, you're recognized.
Mr. GILMAN. I'd be pleased to yield to the gentleman.
STATEMENTS OF HON. RANDY ''DUKE'' CUNNINGHAM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA; HON. BENJAMIN GILMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK; HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII; HON. PATSY MINK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII, AND HON. NANCY PELOSI, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
STATEMENT OF HON. RANDY ''DUKE'' CUNNINGHAM
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Thank you, Mr. Gilman.
I've been asked to be very brief, and I'll make a brief statement and then leave because of the number of witnesses. But if I may stand and address the audience, Mr. Chairman, I'd say ''Mohowi''to the Filipinoswelcome. [Laughter.]
Mr. Chairman, I've spent a large portion of my life in the Philippines, and I've grown, you know, to love and cherish, not only the people in the Philippines but the Filipino people here in the United States.
General MacArthur was mentioned and he gave his word, but so did this country. And I would like to submit my statement for the record and rise in support of the legislation. They say there's a great expense, but it's not an area of expense; it's not an area of economics. It's an area of justice.
And with that I would submit my testimony for the record.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Cunningham appears on p. 170.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Cunningham. And all of your statements will be printed in the record in their entirety.
STATEMENT OF HON. BENJAMIN GILMAN
Mr. GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I would thank our colleagues for this opportunity to try to address a very important issue, and I will submit the full statement for the record. I'll try to brief.
I want to thank the committee for taking a good, hard look at what we can do to reconcile this problem. I've long been an advocate of Filipino veterans in the Congress. And for the past several Congresses, I've introduced legislation, along with Congressman Filner, to provide members of the Philippine Commonwealth, Army veterans, and members of the Special Philippine Scouts by reason of service with the Armed Forces during World War II with full veterans' benefits.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In July of 1941, President Roosevelt issued a military order calling members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army into the service of the United States Forces in the Far East, under the command of Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur.
For almost 4 years, over 100,000 Filipinos of the Philippine Commonwealth Army fought alongside our allies to reclaim the Philippine Islands from Japan. Regrettably in return, Congress enacted the Rescission Act of 1946. That measure limited veterans' eligibility for service-connected disabilities and death compensation, and also denied the members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army the honor of being recognized as veterans of our Armed Forces.
These members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Special Philippine Scouts served just as courageously as their American counterparts during the Pacific war. Their contributions helped to disrupt the initial Japanese offensive time table in 1942 at a point when the Japanese were expanding unchecked through the Western Pacific.
During the next 2 years, Filipino units conducted an ongoing campaign of guerilla warfare tying down precious Japanese resources. Then, in 1944, Filipino forces provided invaluable assistance in the liberation of the Philippine Islands, which in turn became an important base for taking the war to the Japanese homeland.
Without the assistance of Filipino units and guerilla forces, the liberation of the Philippine Island would have taken much longer and would have resulted in greater casualties to our own forces than those which occurred.
President Truman recognized that fact and sharply criticized the language of the Rescission Act in a letter to Congress dated May 16, 1947, in which he stated that he considered it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of the Filipino veterans.
Mr. Chairman, members of this committee, we all recognize that the current fiscal climate may preclude the awarding of full benefits at this time. The Philippine government and our veterans' groups are cognizant of this as well. However, it's our hope that this hearing will allow us to reach some type of workable solution which both offers the veterans the recognition of their sacrifice that they seek and provides some of the compensation that they have so valiantly earned.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As President Truman stated, we do have a moral obligation to look after their welfare.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for agreeing to hold this hearing. I'm certain that you'll hear plenty of pertinent testimony today from the various panels that will appear before you this morning. And I thank our colleagues for joining us in this testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Gilman appears on p. 171.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you Chairman Gilman.
Our next witness, the Honorable Neil Abercrombie, from the State of Hawaii.
STATEMENT OF HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Evans, committee members.
Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would like to submit a statement for the record from the Governor of the State of Hawaii, the Honorable Benjamin Cayetano, who is the first Filipino-American to be elected to this high office in the United States.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection
[The statement of Mr. Cayetano appears on p. 318.]
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much.
I would also at this time, Mr. Chairman, request permission to submit a statement by Mr. Eduardo Mina, who is the president and chair of the World War II Fil-Am Vets in the Hawaii Chapter, if that's all right?
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Without objection.
[The statement of Mr. Mina appears on p. 319.]
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you, and I would like, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, to have Mr. Mina stand and be recognized by the committee. He is here with five Filipino-American veterans from Hawaii representing them and has come all this way for this hearing. This is a big day for these veterans, and we are all very grateful to you for holding the hearing. That's Mr. Mina right
The CHAIRMAN. We welcome you, sir. And let me say thatfor the benefit of otherswe are just truly sorry we could not accommodate all of those that wanted to testify. The list is simply too great, and we tried to pick the various leaders of the various organizations.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Yes, and we're very grateful for that, Mr. Chairman, and thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I will not reiterate the succinct and pertinent testimony of Mr. Gilman, but I would like to emphasis a point or two in my testimony and request your permission to submit my whole statement for the record.
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Once again then, Mr. Chairman, I thank you and the committee for holding this important hearing. I'm very proud to join my colleagues today to speak on behalf of these courageous and worthy individuals.
As Mr. Gilman has indicated, their sacrifice and loyalty were critical to the outcome of World War II and contributed significantly to our freedom.
Mr. Chairman, for purposes then of context, may I just remind the committee that during this grim time in our history, the United Statesour Armed Forces were on the defensive everywhere. We now see films about the United States going on the offensive such as D-day and elsewherelater this year, I expect there will be another film, ''The Thin Red Line,'' which will go into the Pacific in James Jones' great book transposed to the screen, that's when we were on the offensive.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines were drafted to serve in our Armed Forces by Executive Order of the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt.
Control of the Philippines was strategically important to the containment of the Japanese forces and ultimately in our efforts to win the war. When the attack came and Japan attacked the Philippines, American and Filipino soldiers fought side-by-side at every major battle including Bataan and Corregidor.
Because of their loyalty to America, the Filipino soldiers suffered the brutal rancor of the Japanese as depicted in the massacre of 400 troops of the 91st PA Division, the infamous Bataan Death March, and the brutal conditions of prison camps at O'Donnell, Capaz, and Tarlac. The U.S. forces principal mission to hold Manila Bay for 6 months could not have been accomplished without the efforts of the Philippine Army.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, we need to recognize that soldiers who escaped capture joined forces with civilians to form guerilla units whose attacks against Japan thwarted the Japanese occupation. It gave the United States critical strategic time to defeat Japan and reclaim the Philippines. Through 3 long years that the Filipino guerilla soldiers kept faithful to America, they provided intelligence to American Forces in the southwest Pacific. They rescued downed American airmen and inhibited the enemy's full exploitation of the region.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I am a co-sponsor of the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act of 1995, introduced in both 1995 and 1997 to restore these veterans benefits and equity to the brave Filipino veterans who fought in World War II.
I am also a sponsor with Mrs. Mink and others of H.R. 4177, which I commend to your attention as well, to extend the Social Security Act for health care coverage to Filipino veterans under Medicare. And I commend that especially to your attention, Mr. Chairman, because you've indicated that you and the committee are willing to consider an array of possible alternatives, and I hope that this will be one of them.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The issue is of great importance obviously to the people of Hawaii and to me personally. As represented by Mr. Mina here today, Hawaii enjoys the residence of many of the Filipino veterans who would benefit.
Because then, in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, America stands for justice for all, we cannot turn our backs on these veterans who have waited for 52 years. The Rescission Act was already cited, and, we also have had cited to the committee the benefits that President Truman considered the veterans eligible for as a result of the moral obligation regarding the circumstances I've just outlined.
It is time then, Mr. Chairman, to right this injustice. We owe equal treatment to all who fought under our flag. These two bills that I've mentioned extend recognition for incomparable bravery and loyalty of the World War II Filipino veterans. It offers justice to the veterans in need and redeems a debt that has gone unpaid for far too long.
Mr. Chairman, with that I'll conclude. And thank you once again for your consideration.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Abercrombie appears on p. 175.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Abercrombie.
The chair is happy to recognize the Honorable Patsy Mink, representing the State of Hawaii.
STATEMENT OF HON. PATSY MINK
Mrs. MINK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.
We are extremely honored and pleased to have this opportunity to present this case, which has considerable meaning to many thousands of residents in my constituency and in Mr. Abercrombie's.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The issue is not, I think, a search for the historic quotes that we often hear about the President making the promise. The issue here is an obligation which I believe this country feels very deeply that these individuals who served side-by-side with our own forces in the Philippines, sacrificed tremendously, showed the total human capacity of courage that could be expected of anyone. And when they did this, they did this, of course, for the love of their own people, but because they felt they were part of the United States of America.
And so here we are today many, many years after the sacrifice in the Philippines, still discussing whether or not there is an obligation to these individuals.
The Filipino veterans are not asking for anything more than all the other thousands of veterans who served in World War II. All they want is equal status, whatever all the other veterans are entitled because of their service in World War II. They feel and I feel they ought to be given this recognition.
Much is made of the Rescission Act, but I think the message that the Rescission Act carries in its provisions is that precise recognition of these veterans because it affords them the benefits if they could show service-connected disabilities. Why else would they be included in this category of benefits if this country did not, in fact, recognize that their service was part of the service to this country?
So it seems to me that, first, this committee ought to take into consideration the administration's request of not 50 percent of the benefit of other veterans as service-connected veterans, but full, 100 percent. That was what is in the President's request as I understand it. So it seems to be that that's the first, because it is part of that initial recognition.
The second, it seems to me, if we're going to recognize those who were in the service and have service-connected disability, it seems absolutely logical that all other veterans serving side-by-side, regardless of whether they have service-connected injuries or not, ought to have the same recognition of all other veterans that served in the military.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And there are many veteransmy husband, one, served in World War II; he has no benefits. He's proud of service, and I'm sure there are thousands in the categories of Filipino World War II veterans similarly situated. But for those who would qualify for benefits as veterans of World War II, it seems to me it's time to bring equity to this situation and recognize the service of these individuals to our country. That is what this is all about.
We feel that time is running out for our friends and neighbors who live in our district. Many of them are passing into 70, 75 years of age. There is not much time for this Nation to recognize their service.
And all we are here for today is to say these individuals helped immeasurably in the success of the American effort in the Philippines, and they are deserved recognition as veterans in the service of this country that they love. They come here out of love, out of commitment. Many of them left the Philippines and are now residing in the United States. And we think that this committee ought to recognize that.
We have submitted other bills which we feel might close some of the gap that prevent them from this full status. And why we are here today in this committee is to ask you to consider the service they gave, the obligation that we ought to feel that they are entitled to this recognition, and to proceed to correct this longstanding error, and help the veterans finally to receive the honor and accord that this Nation promised they would get.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Congresswoman Mink appears on p. 177.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Patsy.
Let me, if I may, try to clarify one point, perhaps I misunderstood you. Any Philippine person that fought in the war, unless they are new scouts that didn't come in until after the war was over in August of 1945, and has a service-connected disability is being compensated?
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. MINK. Right.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
Mrs. MINK. That was my point. Because this country has recognized their service by giving them 50 percent, not 100 percent. And the administration is now saying give them the 100 percent. But because we have taken that step to recognize this service as indeed part of our whole commitment to veterans, we should not exclude the others who also performed similar service who do not today qualify for service-connected disability category.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mrs. MINK. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Our next witness, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, from the State of California.
STATEMENT OF HON. NANCY PELOSI
Ms. PELOSI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairmen, members of the committee, Ranking Member Evans. Thanks for the opportunity to be here.
I want to associate myself with the remarks of my colleagues here in support of this legislation. The chairman has been most kind in accommodating my request to testify. I promised him I would be brief because we want to make room for as many of our Filipino-American visitors as possible. But as you know, Mr. Chairman, I do want to, as I say, associate myself with their remarks, but I think some facts bear repeating.
The Philippines played a vital role in the outcome of the Second World War. The historians credit the battle for the liberation of the Philippine Islands as the beginning of Japanese's demise in the war. The courageous efforts of the Filipino soldiers, scouts, and guerillas were instrumental in that success.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As we all further know, in 1941 President Roosevelt, by order of an Executive Order, brought the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines under the command of the U.S. Armed Forces. Soldiers known as new or special scouts came under the U.S. military command because U.S. law at the time dictated that any person serving actively in the military and not dishonorably discharged would be considered a veteran for benefits purposes. These Filipinos would have been eligible for full veterans' benefits. I hope that we can stipulate to that.
Shortly after the war, however, Congress rescinded that of the full benefits at eligibility of these soldiers. And I consider that Rescission Act really a scar on our historical record. We had made a certain representation and then rescinded it. I don't think that's fair. It was very important for us to have the Filipino and U.S. soldiers under one centralized command for the expeditious liberation of the Philippines. And I believe that saved many, many, many American lives.
But what we're discussing here today is that we must separate the benefits that the U.S. citizen receives from those that a U.S. military veteran is eligible for. And to that point I want to say that H.R.H. 36, which I hope that this committee will support, does not naturalize one Filipino into a U.S. citizen. It does not allow one Filipino to receive Social Security or any other Government aide that American citizens are eligible for.
What it does is provide that these Filipinos get the same assistance that retired U.S. soldiers receive. If we fail to do that, and as my colleague said, it has symmetrynothing more, nothing different, but the same. If we fail to do this, I fear we send a message that the life of that of a foreigner is not as valuable as an American fighting in the same war, under the same command, and following that experiencestatement by the President of the United States. I think that is a dangerous message.
I appreciate, though, my conversations with the chairman of the complexity of, and the resulting financial strain, of the Federal budget. As a result of the balanced budget agreement, we're required to find offsets to any additional costs with cuts in current programs. I do not believe cutting current programs to American veterans is the proper solution, of course.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do believe, however, that a solution exists and that it's vital we work together to find that solution before more of these veterans pass away and then it's too late. I hope members of the committee will find the arguments of our visitors valid, compelling, and also not so overwhelming that we don't think that a financial solution is possible.
In closing, I'd like to urge the members of the committee to fulfill the commitment the United States made over half a century ago. On June 9, the body approved by voice vote H. Res. 404 commemorating 100 years of relations with the Philippines and pledging to work closely together as we begin a new era. We must follow in deed, what we said in word.
Thanks again, Mr. Chairman, for your conducting a hearing. I appreciate that very much, Mr. Evans, and for allowing me to make my presentation. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Congresswoman Pelosi appears on p. 180.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Nancy.
Mr. Campbell from California, I believe you'd asked unanimous consent to make a brief statement?
Mr. CAMPBELL. Mr. Chairman, thank you. Out of consideration of your kindness and to make time for the veteran witnesses, I would simply ask that my statement be submitted. And I would ask to be associated with the remarks of my colleagues.
I particularly want to pay respect to my good friend and colleague, Mr. Filner, whose leadership in this area deserves credit.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Campbell appears on p. 182.]
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Evans.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EVANS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd ask unanimous consent that the hearing record be held open for 2 weeks so that all interested parties may submit testimony for the record?
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection?
Without objection, so ordered.
Thank you witnesses.
Our second panel, if they would please come up. The Honorable Dave Pendleton, member of the House of Representatives from the State of Hawaii; General Nanadiego, Office of Affairs of the Embassy of the Philippines; Mr. Alex Esclamado, National Federation of Filipino-American Organizations; Mr. Patrick Ganio, American Coalition for Filipino Veterans; Colonel Emmanuel DeOcampo, of Veterans' Federations of the Philippines; and Lieutenant Colonel Edward P. Ramsey, U.S. Army, retired.
While the second panel is assuming their position there, I did say that I would deviate briefly if some of the members felt compelled to make a statement at this time. If it would be very brief, I'd be happy to recognize them.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB FILNER
Mr. FILNER. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to everybody, and on behalf of the Filipino heroes of World War II, I thank you for holding this hearing this morning.
All of us, as you have heard, acknowledge the complexity of the issues we will be discussing. And we all believe that men and women of goodwill can and do disagree on how to respond to these matters, but after this hearing I believe that we will more clearly understand the views and concerns of our Filipino comrades-in-arms and, hopefully, come to a resolution.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I thank my colleagues for being here this morning. This is not just a normal oversight hearing, not an normal markup of an ordinary bill, but the culmination of more than 50 years of struggle for justice and honor.
Over 50 years ago, the brave Filipino soldiers of World War II, drafted into our Armed Forces by President Roosevelt, exhibiting great courage at the epic battles of Bataan and Corregidor, were unceremoniously deprived of all veterans' benefits due to them by the Congress of 1946. Less than 75,000 are still alive, and their last wish is the restoration of the honor and dignity due to them.
The distinguished chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Benjamin Gilman, whom you have just heard and I responded to this request in a bipartisan effortand you have seen a sample of the bipartisan support in this Congress this morning.
With almost 200 co-sponsors, we have brought to this committee H.R. 836, the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act. At one level, this bill simply restores benefits that were denied in 1946. But at a deeper level, this bill says that we will restore dignity and honor to these proud veterans. We will remedy historical injustice. We will make good on the promise of America.
You have heard about President Truman's statement in 1946. When he signed the bill that had various other appropriations matters that included this infamous rescission of Filipino benefits, he said that there was injustice being done. I quote President Truman, ''Filipino Army veterans are Nationals of the United States and will continue in that status until July 4, 1946. They fought as American Nationals under the American flag and under the direction of our military leaders. They fought with gallantry and courage under the most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. Their officers were commissioned by us. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth, was taken into the Armed Forces of the United States by Executive Order of President Roosevelt. That order has never been revoked or amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of the Filipino Army veterans.'' This was President Truman. That moral obligation, Mr. Chairman, remains with us today.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The issue, in my opinion, is not just promises or arcane legalities. The Filipino soldiers were inducted into the U.S. Army by President Roosevelt in 1941. And if the question of their status as veterans and their entitlement to benefits was in doubt, why would the Congress in 1946 pass the Rescissions Act which declared that for legal purposes, not withstanding any historical facts, for legal purposes, these Filipino soldiers were not to be classified as in active military service?
So my colleagues, I ask you for the moment to put aside the issue of money and the issue of the budget. I want you to think of justice, of morality, of dignity, and honor. I have spoken to literally hundreds and hundreds of Filipinos involved in the war effort about these issues. I've been to the Philippines; I've celebrated Bataan Day on Mount Samat. I've visited the POW camp at Tarlac. There is scarcely a Filipino family alive today in either the United States or the Philippines that does not include a World War II veteran or a son or daughter of a veteran. Fifty years of injustice still burn in their hearts and in their memories. They want justice in their last years, and it is time that this country adequately recognize their contributions, recognize the injustice, and act to correct it. We must do this to establish our honor and the honor and dignity of these veterans.
To those who ask if we can afford to redeem this debt, I answer, ''We can't afford not to.'' The historical record remains blotted until we recognize these veterans. So I'd ask the committee to look at these issues carefully.
I thank the chairman; I thank the committee for allowing us to focus on this. I hope the Congress, in the best American tradition of honor and justice, will appropriately and adequately honor these veterans. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Are there others?
Yes, Mr. Stearns?
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CLIFF STEARNS
Mr. STEARNS. Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased to be here and to hear the testimony and to recognize the problem.
And I think many of us on the Veterans' Committee are very sympathetic and understand that something has to be done. And I think that's the first step that all of us feel that there is a marker that's been set down that this committee should look at proposals that have been offered by members on the committee. And the market has been set that we need to start moving.
And I know for many of you, it's been a very long time and a very arduous battle. And we recognize and empathize with that.
And I think Chairman Stump has offered an alternative plan in addition to the plan we have debated today. Perhaps a third alternative plan is for the United States to talk to the Filipino Government and ask that, in addition to what they're doing now, they provide additional services and care.
And in your testimony, I'm also interested to hear what your views are in terms of the Filipino Government, itself, stepping up to the plate in addition to the United States to participate in this.
So, Mr. Chairman, I commend you for having this hearing, and I look forward to the testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Stearns.
Ms. Brown, you're next. But if you would kindly defer to Mr. Reyes? He has a markup. Would that be all right with you to yield to him?
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOPENING STATEMENT OF HON. SILVESTRE REYES
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to also thank you for holding this hearing and also to my colleagues. In particular, Mr. Filner, who has worked tirelessly for this hearing.
And I think as a veteran and as a representative who has over 60,000 veterans in my district, I hope that we are able to once and for all do the right thing for a group of veterans that stepped forward to help this country during one of the darkest periods of the history of this great Nation. And I think in doing so, we will put to rest a lot of the issues that have been clouding the relationship and the obligation that this country has.
And, Mr. Chairman, I have a statement for the record if I could introduce it?
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly. All statements will be printed in the record.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Reyes appears on p. 148.]
The CHAIRMAN. Ms. Brown.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CORRINE BROWN
Ms. BROWN OF FLORIDA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just really want my statement issued to the record. But I want to just make a brief remark.
I want to thank the Filipino veterans for coming here today. I want to say that I have a very large community in Florida, in Jacksonville, that are very active and have really educated me on this issue.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think this is a real injustice that's gone on for over 50 years, and I'm looking forward to working with the committee and Congress to rectify it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Congresswoman Brown of Florida appears on p. 151.]
The CHAIRMAN. Are there others that would care to make a statement?
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE DOYLE
Mr. DOYLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the interest of time, I submit my statement for the record. But I want to thank you for providing the opportunity to discuss this issue. I also recognize Representative Filner, who has really been diligent on this effort. We wouldn't be here today without all of his hard work. So, thank you for holding this hearing today, Mr. Chairman.
And I submit my statement for the record.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Doyle appears on p. 154.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. MASCARA. Good; thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you can tell, I'm suffering from laryngitis. But I'd like to thank you and Mr. Mr. Evans and Mr. Filner for holding this hearing on this long-overdue subjectbenefits for Filipino World War II veterans.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am a co-sponsor of the Filipino Veterans' Act, H.R. 836. And quite frankly I'm surprised that this injustice has been allowed to go on for so long without resolution.
The Philippines played a vital role in defeating the Japanese in World War II. If the bravery of both the American soldiers and the Filipino soldiers had not occurred, the Japanese would have spent less time in the island chain, and the outcome of World War II might have turned out differently. These veterans are heroes who fought side-by-side with American soldiers.
I'm glad to be here to listen to this important testimony which I hope will shed some light on this very important subject. Hopefully, we can resolve some of the long outstanding inequities as they relate to providing full benefits for Filipino veterans who fought and died for our freedom.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Mascara.
Ms. Carson, did you
Ms. CARSON. Yes, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I, too, want to join my colleagues in extending my gratitude to you and certainly to Mr. Filner, Mr. Gilman and my ranking member, Mr. Lane Evans, for bringing this issue to the floor.
And I want to apologize for having to leave. I've got two other committees going on simultaneously, but I did want to very briefly say that when you accept the benefit of a useful or valiant service of another, you incur some obligation. And these veterans, a special group of very unique and patriotic veterans, served boldly, bravely, and selflessly. They served America, and this late hour in their lives is no time to quarrel with their basic due.
Our work, more than many committees of this Congress, must be to see that our Nation's responsibilities are honored. When this Congress makes an error as it did in 1946 and we have a chance to correct it, the chance becomes our duty, our responsibility. Some speak to the cost. With the correct measure of moral might expressed here, we will find a way to fund.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I say thank you, again, to all of the Filipino veterans that are gathered here today and those that you represent. Mr. Chairman, again, thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to state where I stand on this very important matter.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Mr. Chairman, and members, let me just go ahead and also just indicate that in all honestly I'm ashamed that it has gone this long. And it's unfortunate. And I'd like to at least feel that, hopefully, thatnot hopefullyI would like to think that in the time that I served at least we will take some action today to try to resolve this issue.
I think one of the things that we sometimes look at is the money. But as Bob's already eloquently stated, I think we need to look also in the values in terms of our country's values in terms of equal treatment. It is not appropriate. We need to treat all our veterans, despite the fact that we have promised our other veterans a lot of things and we blew it not delivered on those promises either. The fact is that we need to begin to treat everyone in the same manner.
And so I feel very strongly that we need to take that action as quickly as possible.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LUIS V. GUTIERREZ
Mr. GUTIERREZ. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I ask unanimous consent that my complete statement be entered into the record.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Without objection.
Mr. GUTIERREZ. And I just want to say that I want to echo the statements of my other colleagues here.
I want to thank, specifically, the Filipino-Americans veterans in the city of Chicago for educating me and enlightening me on this issue. And I think that, you know, I cannot use this microphone and not express a huge sense of gratitude to Representative Filner for his tenacity and for his just willingness each and every year, each and every month, to continue to raise this issue, and to continue to raise it until today we finally have this hearing. And so I want to thank Congressman Filner for his hard work and his tenacity in raising this issue. We need people like him in Congress to take up issues which many times don't have a great breath of support or don't seem to be the issues of the day. So I want to thank you, Bob, very much for having done this.
And lastly, I want to say, Mr. Chairman, you know it seems as though we should really mark this up today and get it on the calendar as quickly as possible because July 25 marks the 100th-year anniversary of the invasion, at least in Puerto Rico of American troops in 100 years. In the Spanish-American War, when the Philippines and Cuba and Puerto Rico became part of the United States of America. And one of the promises we made back in 1898 was that we were going to bring freedom and liberty and we were going to lift the Philippines from tyranny
Mr. GUTIERREZ (continuing). And Puerto Rica and Cuba from tyranny from the Spanish tyranny of the Spanish imperialism.
And so I would just suggest that it has been 52 years since we revoked their rights, privileges, and prerogatives, and a 100 years since our troops militarily invaded these Islands, these countries. And it was in the spirit of bringing them, what? Freedom, justice, equality, 100 years ago. So I think we can complement historical facts by making sure that this Filner resolution is approved. (Applause.)
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Congressman Gutierrez appears on p. 155.]
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Cooksey.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN COOKSEY
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I don't really have an inspirational speech to give, but I would like to ask some questions.
When I was in the Air Force, the person living in the duplex next to me had lived in the Philippines as a child. His father was in business there, and his father worked in a guerilla operation during the war after the Japanese were controlling much of the Philippines. And I'd heard some harrowing stories about living in the jungle. When I was on my way back from southeast Asia in 1969, I spent about 3 or 4 days at Clark Air Force base. And I went back there 10 years ago as a civilian. So I'm familiar with the Philippines, and there is no question they made major contributions to World War II, to the success.
My questionand I'm trying to understand the legislationthere were approximately 200,000 Filipino vets, 93,000 surviving;and I took this information from these papers; I'm just checking to see if my numbers are right28,000 of the 93,000 are American citizens; 15,000 live in the United States. My first question is, of the 28,000 surviving Filipino veterans that are American citizens of the 28,000, does that mean that there are 13,000 American citizens who are Filipinos who are still living in the Philippines? And there are 15,000 here? Is that a correct number?
The CHAIRMAN. Are you directing that to staff, Doctor?
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOKSEY. Yes.
COUNSEL. Mr. Cooksey, I think it would be bestI think the VA has ample data on this kind of thing in terms of citizenship and how many are receiving benefits currently, both here in the U.S. and in the Philippines. And I would just suggest that we let the VA address that question.
Mr. COOKSEY. Okay, at a later panel?
COUNSEL. Yes, sir.
Mr. COOKSEY. Today?
COUNSEL. That's correct.
Mr. COOKSEY. Okay, because that's how I extrapolated this.
Okay, my next question, is the legislativeand this would go to Mr. Filner, I guessis the legislation designed so that the benefits go to all surviving Filipino vets? Or does it go to the Filipino vets who are American citizens?
Mr. FILNER. The legislation in H.R. 836 applies to all veterans wherever they're living, whatever their nationality. And let me just make sure
Mr. COOKSEY. What if they're ex-citizens?
Mr. FILNER (continuing). That it's clear for the record. It's their eligibility for benefits. Not everybody who is eligible for the benefits gets benefits. It's the eligibility that's at issue here. The status and dignity of having served in the Armed Forces and being recognized for that. The issue is not really even so much of money, but of status and honor.
The bill, as presently written, applies to all. There are discussions that we could have in the spirit that Mr. Stearns raised earlier, because of different standards of living, for example, different approaches can be made to those in different categories. But as the legislation stands, it is all those who served in the Armed Forces. And there is a list; there is a registry of such who are recognized who would be eligible for those benefits.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOKSEY. Okay. Another number I extrapolated from these papers is $3.2 billion in cost. Is that an accurate number? Or is there a number out there?
Mr. FILNER. Well, there will be some testimony on that later. The VA made what I consider a fairly outlandish, worst-case scenario of benefits. They assumed every single person who is eligible would get benefits, would get the maximum benefits, and there would be no offsets for other benefits that they now get as living in this country. It's a very inflated figure. I think the figure is closer to several hundred million dollars. But even that figure, since we are writing the legislation, can be defined in a way that we can accommodate within a balanced budget.
The issue is not so much of money, let me repeat it's an issue of status and honor and dignity. The money has to be designed within the context of a balanced budget, and that's a commitment of all those who have supported this legislation.
Mr. COOKSEY. Okay. Well, and I would agree with the importance of the honor and the dignity because these people were fighting for their homeland and obviously fighting to get rid of a very aggressive oppressor of that time period.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. LaHood? Oh, I thought you had your hand up.
Are there others then?
Ms. McDonald, we had our schedule made up. If you would like to ask to revise and extend, the chair would recognize you for that purpose for a very, very brief statement.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, my statement is not brief because I represent a very large contingent of Filipinos in my district, the 37th Congressional District in California. And so the statement is rather extensive because I did want to speak to this. If there is any way I can do that, perhaps after this panel, I will be most appreciative.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Ms. McDonald, we would be happy to recognize you at the end of this scheduled meeting if that would be okay.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Fine. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. You're welcome.
All right. Our first witnessand let me remind the witnesses that we do have a 5-minute rule. Your statements will be printed in its entirety in the record.
Our first witness is the Honorable Dave Pendleton, member of the State House of Representatives in Hawaii.
STATEMENTS OF HON. DAVID PENDLETON, A STATE REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES; GENERAL TAGUMPAY NANADIEGO, OFFICE OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, EMBASSY OF THE PHILIPPINES; ALEX A. ESCLAMADO, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FILIPINO-AMERICAN ORGANIZATION; PATRICK GANIO, SR., AMERICAN COALITION FOR FILIPINO VETERANS; COL. EMMANUEL DEOCAMPO, VETERANS' FEDERATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, AND LT. COL. EDWIN RAMSEY, RETIRED, U.S. ARMY
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID PENDLETON
Mr. PENDLETON. The honorable chairman, Bob Stump, honorable members of this distinguished committee.
My name is David A. Pendleton; I'm a State legislator from the State of Hawaii where I serve specifically in the House of Representatives where I am a Republican and serve the Republican caucus as Whip.
On behalf of the Hawaii State legislature, and particularly the Filipino caucus, we extend our gratitude and thank you for scheduling this hearing today. I also extend a sincere aloha from the thousands of Filipino residents in my district and throughout the State of Hawaii. We're very appreciative of this committee's looking at this issue.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipino veterans who would benefit from the various bills that have been introduced on this matter. And so it is of great importance to me and in Hawaii. And I believe here in Congress it is not a partisan issue, but is something that we can approach in a bipartisan fashion.
I believe that the committee setting aside time to look at this issue is a recognition of the important contribution that the Filipino veterans made to the World War II effort.
I have attached to my testimony, House Concurrent Resolution No. 90, which passed both chambers of the Hawaii State legislature. And so I will not go into detail of all the specifics there and the history and all the arguments of that document. I just would ask that you would refer to that.
Let me briefly just talk about why I am interested in this particular legislation. First of all, I am part Filipino myself. And I remember by late grandfather having served in the United States Navy. He was an enthusiastic patriot and very proud of the fact that he was an American citizen. He was glad to be a citizen of a Nation committed to high idealsliberty, justice, equality under the law. And I still remember visiting with him while he was a civilian where he worked at Pearl Harbor. And in the morning while shaving before work he would whistle the National Anthem. He was very, very proud of being an American and having served.
He was also proud of his Filipino culture and heritage and did not see that there was a conflict between being proud of both of being a Filipino and an American citizen. He passed this on to his children and grandchildren.
He spoke often of World War II. Unfortunately, I did not master all of the details of the historical events and the things that happened. But I did gain an appreciation for the themes, the major events, and the contribution of the Filipino veterans. He hurried over some of the detail in sharing this with me as a grandchild. Some of those details had to do with the treatment the Filipino veterans following the war. His position, as I reflect upon it now, was that there were misunderstandings which occurred, that some unfairness took place, and that there were representations made which were not followed through on. But that was the past.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My grandfather was clear that legislators today could not bear the guilt of those who had gone before. Decision makers in the present are not responsible for what others did in the past.
My grandfather did teach me, however, that while we cannot be held responsible for other people's actions, we are responsible for what we do in the present and what we do in the future.
Perhaps what happened was technically legal. It was technically in compliance with the letter of the law. There are others here this morning and later today who will discuss these matters at great length. But even if we assume that what was done was technical legal, viewed in the broader context of history and viewed in the broader context of how we have treated others similarly situated, it is clear that there is not equity for Filipino veterans. Even if the present scheme is perfectly in keeping with the rulesand I don't hold that assumptionbut even if the present scheme is perfectly in keeping with the rules, it falls far short of our American ideals.
I'm not interested in digging through the historical documents to see what exactly we must be committed to, what the least we can do and still be in compliance with the rules and regulations. I'm interested in looking at what we need to do to be in compliance with what is just and what is right.
And this is the difficult part. We can all agree that justice and equity are the goals. We can all agree that justice and equity may require us to do more than we are presently doing. But what are the precise and specific terms? What exactly should be done? What statutory language would effectuate our American ideals with respect to Filipino veterans? This is the difficult part, and I'm not going to attempt in the few minutes I have remaining to answer all of these questions.
I've written articles on this issue and thought a lot about the issue. I've attached two of the articles I've written to my testimony. I've also attached House Concurrent Resolution No. 90, which passed with no ''no'' votes in the Hawaii State legislature. Both the house Republican caucus and the Senate Republican caucus voted unanimously in support of this house resolution. That details I think some of the important points that need to be looked at.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My main purpose today is to convey my firm belief and that of the Hawaii State legislature that the present treatment of Filipino veterans does not afford them full equity. Let's illustrate this contention with just two brief points.
First, there is the issue of naturalization. During World War II, many non-American solders were involved in the great conflict fighting against the powers of conquest, namely, Japan and Nazi Germany. Among the military forces which opposed Japanese and German expansionism were allied troops from other countries. These troops, not unlike the Filipino veterans, fought in conjunction with American forces against a common enemy. They were subsequently afforded the right to naturalization. Beginning in 1943, naturalization officers were dispatched to foreign countries where they accepted applications for naturalization, where they performed naturalization ceremonies, and where they swore into American citizenship thousands of veterans from other countries.
In stark contrast, the great majority of Filipino soldiers who had fought under the command of American officers were not afforded similarly liberal naturalization policies. The United States withdrew its naturalization officer
The CHAIRMAN. Is the gentleman about to conclude his statement?
Mr. PENDLETON. Yes, I have two more paragraphs, Mr. Chair.
The United States withdrew its naturalization officer from the Philippines for 9 months and then permitted the law to lapse in 1946.
The second issue has to do with the reasonable and appropriate form of payment of monetary veterans' benefits. Other individuals will discuss this.
I want to close by saying that the goal and purpose of the Department of Veterans Affairs was ''to care for him who shall have borne the battle.''
Today, Congress has that opportunity to make sure we provide full equity.
Thank you for permitting me to testify today.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Pendleton, with attachments, appears on p. 202.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Our next witness, the General Nanadiego.
STATEMENT OF TAGUMPAY NANADIEGO
Mr. NANADIEGO. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee for inviting me to present my views.
I was an enlisted man. I was a buck private in the Philippine Army when I reported to active duty on December 16, 1941, pursuant to the military order of President Roosevelt.
Mr. Chairman, the views I'm going to present are not mine alone. They are also the views of thousands of Filipinos of my generation, who responded to the order of President Roosevelt. Armed only with infield rifles caliber 30, model 1917we fought alongside with Americans and after 98 historic days, with valor unsurpassed in world history stood their grounds against mostly superior forces ''in the gory fields of Bataan.''
These are also the views of Filipinos like me, who in the agony of defeat, were formally surrendered to the Japanese Forces by General Edward King to General Homa's representative at the Lamao Agricultural Station in Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942. These are also the views, Mr. Chairman, of the Filipinos who walked the infamous 65 mile death march under a scorching April sun. These are also the views, Mr. Chairman, of the prisoners of war with whom I was with for 4 months in Camp O'Donnell, detained and maltreated in violation of the rules of land warfare and provisions of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They are also the views, Mr. Chairman, of Filipino veterans who enjoyed briefly-I use the word briefly advisedly-with the Americans in the thrill and joy of victory in 1944. I say briefly because the 79th Congress of the United States immediately thereafter disowned us when it mandated in the Rescission Act that our services in Bataan and Corregidor shall not be deemed as active device in the Armed Forces of the United States for purposes of benefits except for those who were killed in action, those who were maimed, or were separated, or for ailments which are service-connected.
1. We maintain, Mr. Chairman, that we Filipino veterans are American veterans and, therefore, are entitled to the benefits and rights administered by the Veterans' Administration. This conclusion springs from the constitution of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), and later by United States Armed Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) when General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines for Australia.
2. The United States Government committee in 1944 to extend to the Filipino veterans the benefits by the enactment of the GI Bill of Rights which simply required active service in the Army of the United States under the American flag as the measure of entitlement to benefits. It was active service in the Armed Forces of the United States which qualified citizens of the 66 countries to receive full benefits.
3. The Filipino veterans, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, have not been fairly treated as claimed by the enactment of the Rescission Act of 1946, the Filipino veterans' entitlement were limited to those who were killed in action or those who were maimed or who were separated for service-connected disability. And on top of that, the benefits were computed at a rate of 50 cents to the dollar. While those of the 66 countries all over the world were extended the long range of benefits under the GI Bill of Rights.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 4. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, the United States of America today is the only super power in the world. And it is also the world's wealthiest country with the strongest robust economy. It is also the country looked up to by countries big and small in political or financial turmoil.
We believe, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee that it is time for Congress to ponder seriously over the parting words of President Truman when he signed with reluctance, the Rescission Act of 1946. And I quote, ''The Philippine Army veterans are nationals of the United States and will continue in that status until July 4 of 1946. They fought under the American flag and under the direction of our military leaders. They fought with gallantry and courage under the most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippines, was taken into the Armed Forces of the United States. That our order has never been revoked and amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of the Filipinos.''
I hope, Mr. Chairman, those parting words will ring in the halls of Congress.
And Congress should harken also to the words of Congressman Gilman who said, ''For years veterans have been fighting for the benefits they should justly deserve. In the war of conflict, they followed our President's command to fight for freedom the American way.''
But are you aware that there is a group of veterans (referring to the Filipino veterans) who fought for the United States and are still fighting, not just for benefits but for the recognition that they are the Nation's veterans?
One sentence more.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman has 30 seconds to complete his sentence.
Mr. NANADIEGO. Okay.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''It is time for the United States Government to correct that injustice by letting them know that they are accepted as our Nation's veterans.
With your permission, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, let me close with this famous Irish toast: ''May the road rise up to greet you. May the winds be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall softly upon your field, and until we meet again. May God hold you in the hollow of His hands.''
[The prepared statement of Mr. Nanadiego appears on p. 213.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General. (Applause.)
Our next witness, Mr. Alex Esclamado.
STATEMENT OF ALEX A. ESCLAMADO
Mr. ESCLAMADO. It's a matter of honor!
Honorable Chairman, and members of the committee.
My name is Alex Esclamado, chairman of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations. I'm the son of a guerilla mayor in a remote town of Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte, Philippines. And our family reared and supported five American guerillas in the Philippines who established Station TUT. It was the link between our guerillas and General MacArthur.
Today, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for creating this opportunity to present our side, but I'm saddened that the right side of this panel, the Republican side is almost empty. We wanted to show that this issue is not partisan; that this issue is an American issue. This issue is a matter of honor.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I speak in behalf of the leadership of our fast-growing Filipino-American community. We owe tremendously to our Filipino veterans, because before the war, Mr. Chairman, we were regarded as monkeys.
Because of these veterans' heroism in Bataan and Corregidor, every headline and news items published in America enhanced our image, and that image became transformed to that of a human being and finally of being brother American. Now we enjoy the respect, thanks to them.
We strongly support the veterans' vigorous effort to correct this injustice. They have suffered so long. To me, the vital issue to be determined here is whether or not the service of the Filipino soldiers was service in the Armed Forces of the United States. For all intents and purposes, the answer is certainly, yes. We have established through incontrovertible evidence and we have presented to your committee two volumes of this documentation (raising a blue handbook) to support that.
By service, Mr. Chairman, I mean that they actually took an oath of allegiance to the flag and the Constitution of the United States. That was the first thing they did when they were inducted into the service; it was a military procedure. Ask all the veterans who are here; they will confirm this fact.
But to me, the best test of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of this committee, is how much one risks in defense of that oath. History records that these Filipino soldiers have never been found wanting in gallantry and courage in the field of battle.
The second point I want to make here is this: that the Filipino soldiers fought as members of the U.S. Armed Forces for America's causes in America's war. Ask any of these soldiers present here if they were thinking of Philippine independence that was forthcoming while they were in battle. They could only think of survival and the debilitating effects of hunger, malnutrition, and disease.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, it is argued that the Filipino soldiers should look more to the Philippines for their benefits rather than to the U.S. alone. I wish to inform this committee that the Republic of the Philippines has been providing benefits to the limits of what it can afford. But what the Philippines gives does not remove the moral obligation of the U.S. to provide the benefits that are due them. President Truman said this during the signing of the infamous Rescission Act, itself.
Fourth, it is asked, should U.S. American veterans ask for benefits from the Philippines or any other country they liberated in World War II? Yes, if the U.S. veterans were conscripted into the Philippine Army by a General Order of a Philippine President. It would have been not a war of liberation; it would have been service in the Philippine Army. And I assure you, if such were the case, the Philippines would never, never have passed a Rescission Act that would dishonor the service of U.S. Armed Forces serving the Philippines.
Finally, was there a promise of General MacArthur or President Roosevelt or anybody to give full benefits to these Filipino veterans? Of course, yes. The documentation is clear and unmistakable and is part of the package you have been given. The best proof is that through the representations by General MacArthur, Senate Bill No. 2387 was passed by the Senate on March 31, 1942, and was passed by the Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on May 6, 1942, equalizing the pay of the soldiers under MacArthur's command. There was not only a promise, there was a congressional action.
The whole issue we face is this: was the service of the Filipino soldier service in the United States Armed Forces in the Far East to be considered as service in the United States Armed Forces for purposes of benefits? Why not?
This is the inequity of the Rescission Act which we should now correct. There is absolutely, absolutely no justification for depriving them of the benefits of being America's soldiers.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If we are worried about the cost, the U.S. has already saved $100 billion by perpetuating this injustice. Why can't the United States spend a couple of billion dollars for these veterans that they have long deserved? What America did instead was to deprive these soldiers of the their due and we have rehabilitated our former enemies using more billions of dollars for themfor our enemies, not for our soldiers or our friends.
Honorable Chairman and members of this committee, the Filipino community appeals to you for justice for these heroes. Repeal the Rescission Act by approving the Equity Act now before it's too late.
Let those who lay buried in the nameless graves of Bataan, Corregidor, and the concentration camps and elsewhere, finally rest in peace, Mr. Chairman.
Let the aging who are still living now enjoy whatever is left of their lives in dignity. Let those heroes die with honor. They have suffered too much for too long. Let us give them a life of dignity. Let us, at the very least, restore their honor.
President Roosevelt said in his historic remarks about what we were fighting for in World War II and I quote, ''It is useless to win battles if the cause for which we fought these battles is lost. It is useless to win a war unless it stays won. Therefore, we fight for the restoration of, and perpetration of faith and hope.'' unquote.
These Filipino veterans here today are losing faith in the sense of fairness and justice of America. The 52 years of injustice and discrimination against them is too much to bear. And they are also losing hope that this injustice will ever be corrected.
I believe that it is within the power of this committee to restore their faith and their hope in America's sense of fairness and justice.
It's a matter of honor.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Esclamado, with attachments, appears on p. 218.]
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
Let me please remind those that have not testified to try to limit their remarks to 5 minutes. The chair doesn't want to cut anyone off, but in all fairness to everybodyand we've had a lot of people that could not testify because we didn't have the timeplease observe the 5-minute rule. Thank you.
Mr. Patrick Ganio.
STATEMENT OF PATRICK GANIO, SR.
Mr. GANIO. Mr. Chairman, honorable members of this committee, good morning.
My name is Patrick G. Ganio, a World War II veteran and a survivor from Bataan and Corregidor. I serve as president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, as well as the American-Filipino war veterans based in Washington, DC. Both organizations are based here only to fight for the cause of our fellow veterans that fought with the American's military forces during the war.
We have the support of most of the 28,000 naturalized Filipino veterans here in the United States, and we have the support of the community that now are exposing and supporting our cause.
It is my great honor to testify before this committee on the long-standing claim for equal rights to full American benefits.
Before I proceed, however, Mr. Chairman, I wish to acknowledge the presence of my fellow comrades before you today. As a former prisoner of war and as a Purple Heart recipient I am proud that our sons and daughters have come to listen and to support us in our campaign for justice.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, we believe that we are entitled to the equal rights to full benefits on the following grounds:
We, Filipino soldiers, pledged our allegiance to the United States when we were inducted in Bataan. Our pledge was, as normally done to any public official or personnel in the U.S. Government, ''I, Patrick Ganio, do solemnly swear that I'll bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America. That I will serve honestly and faithfully against all the enemies whomsoever, and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me according to the rules and articles of war.''
And I still remember, Mr. Chairman, that from day one to the last day of school I had before the war, we had been pledging day in and day out our pledge to the flag of America. Then, when I took my oath as a citizen of this country, a country that I learned to love, just like any Filipino veteran did, I said to myself, ''This is my affirmation of my loyalty to the country I've learned to love.''
Second, the Filipino soldiers were U.S. nationals; everybody knows we were a territory of the United States. We were not an independent nation. Therefore, we could not be considered as an ally of the United States only to relieve this Government of the obligation to pay benefits for the services rendered loyally and faithfully for America. We were drafted to serve; I remember President Roosevelt's message to us over the radio in December 1941, when we were in Corregidor, ''I count on every Philippine man, woman, and child to do his duty. We will do ours.''
And is America doing its duty now to us? We Filipinos over the years did serve loyally and faithfully.
As a personal example, I nearly died because of my wounds behind my head. I had a simple fracture, only to be awarded 10 percent disability. It hurts to be treated less than any other American veteran. I also spent 2 months of hard labor in Corregidor. I experienced being beaten by the Japanese with baseball bats. All of the men that I had under me in my barracks were beaten, and kicked, only because of simple mistake. And I had been in Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, where I had seen for myself, and where I experienced the hunger, the disease; we hardly endured in the prison camp.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, General MacArthur told us that we were equals with all fellow Americans. As an example. When we were desperately defending Bataan and Corregidor, General MacArthur radioed his General Order No. 31. He said, ''The scale of pay of American and the Filipino Army personnel and officers all differ. I recommend that all officers and soldiers inducted into the Armed Services receive for the duration of the war, the same pay received by American Army. The equalization of battle,'' he said, ''on soldiery needs no further elaboration.'' For we are now American citizens because of our military service in the Armed Forces of the United States.
The 1990 Immigration Naturalization Act gave us the right to become Americans on the basis of our service. Mr. Chairman, your committee may answer the fundamental question, ''why are we naturalized American veterans being denied our rights to the full veterans' benefits?''
Finally, Mr. Chairman, by our delaying actions in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor in the dark days of our battles in Bataan, we broke the Japanese offensive timetable and gave the United States the most precious time to rebuild and mount a more powerful counter-offensive force against the enemy. Otherwise, what does it mean if we were not able to delay the Japanese forces? The war might have reached the American shores. What we did was a feat in U.S. military history, as General MacArthur said, ''The Army has done so much with so little.''
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman has 30 seconds to complete
Mr. GANIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Finish your conclusion.
Mr. GANIO. What we did was a feat in U.S. military history. General MacArthur said, ''No army has done so much with so little.'' We fought with indomitable spirit and unbreakable faith in America with almost super human endurance in those years that saved American's billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. We, Filipino-American veterans, demandor rather ask no more than we deserve and earned by our servicein the American forces to be treated equally as Americans. We, therefore, need your moral and political will to give us justice after waiting for the past 52 years.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman: Right is right, truth is truth, and justice is justice. Give us justice now, if you'd please.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. (Applause.)
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ganio appears on p. 228.]
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Ganio, thank you for your fine statement.
STATEMENT OF EMMANUEL DEOCAMPO
Mr. DEOCAMPO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of the committee, thank you. I would also thank you for this opportunity given us today because it has been a long wait, Mr. Chairman. For 52 years, this is the first hearing on this situation. So thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee.
Much has been said about the service, but first I would like to introduce myself. I am the President of the Veterans' Federation of the Philippines, and I came here just to attend this meeting. By our laws I am legally the legal representative of all the Filipino veterans. (R.A. 2640)
Much has been said about Bataan and Corregidor and the battlefields of the Philippines, so much in fact, that I would not want to repeat there. The heroism in Bataan, Corregidor, and the battlefields, was just so much. Soon General King surrendered all the troops in Bataan, and General Wainwright later on surrendered the troops in Corregidor and all parts of the Philippine Islands. Evidently, the Japanese knew that there were surreptitious attempts, ordered by General MacArthur, to activate a lot of troops who were cut-off in the rear of the Japanese.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I was one of those. We were told to join the Manila garrison, but we were reallywe were going to the mountains. We were very young, out of basic ROTC, military academy cadets, and some reservists, and we picked up along the way a lot of stragglers. We found out the stragglers were one of the most useful troops.
And while there was a war in Bataan, we were also ambushing the Japanese in the rear. Of course some of us, some of the units, did not have any communication with GHQ except one; that was the 14th infantry (NAKAR) which was composed mostly of my own townmates. This was a situation which perhaps, intended or unintended, caused the enemy so much headache.
After the surrender of Bataan, we found out that many American officers, had been injected behind the enemy lines. There was one, Colonel Hugh Straugn, who first formed the resistance movement about 30 miles outside of Manila. And we found out later on that there was Colonel Claude Thorpe, Captain Joseph Barker McKenzie. One of them is here now, Colonel Edwin Ramsey. We were in close contact. Later we found out there was Volkman in the north, who escaped from Bataanso many American officers were now leading resistance troops and continued to fight. There was Moses, Praeger, Blackburn, Barnett, Lapham, Boon and a host of others in Luzon.
There were also American officers in Mindanao. There was a Colonel Wendell Fertig in Mindanao who organized the Mindanao Island into a big resistance movement in spite of the order to surrender. The Philippine contingent did not surrender. They continued to fight. This was the situation: and they accomplished their goals.
First, they pinned down a lot of enemy divisions which would have helped the advanced to Guadalcanal. For 3 years, the Japanese could not thin out their troops, because the resistance movement was in full control of the countryside and they had to protect the shipping lanes and the lines of communication. The guerillas denied them the full use of their resources. The continuous ambushes and the cutting of communication lines denied the enemy the full use of their facilities.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee, very soon a new operation was initiated. The guerillas had to spirit out a lot of American civilians from the Siliman University and many parts of the country sent by submarine which were in contact with us. Some were from Palawan were sent by sail
boat to Australia. This activity culminated in the liberation of 2,200 Allied civilians in a combined operation with the 11th Airborne in 23 February 1994 and some 800 POW's in Cabanatuan Nueva Ecija.
The guerillas sanitized the landing beaches in many places. And these, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, are the services which were done under orders from General MacArthur. We weregiven in fact, just before the landings, liaison officers who were sent to us. Assigned to our unit, was Colonel Jay Vanderpool. He was sent to us, and he was the one directing us because he was in continuous contact by wireless with Southwest Pacific Arena Command (SWPA).
I will not go into so much details on what we did, but my countrymen have told me, ''Please, try to enlighten the Members of Congress about what we did. Approval of the equity bill will correct the past wrong perception, and once more, strengthen our belief in the American sense of justice and fair play. For us, the restoration of our honor and dignity as soldiers who served under the U.S. armed forces and flag is a moral concern.''
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.
[The prepared statement of Mr. DeOcampo appears on p. 235.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Colonel. (Applause.)
The next witness on the panel is Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Ramsey, Army of the United States, Retired.
STATEMENT OF EDWIN RAMSEY
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. RAMSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before I start, I would like to introduce to my rear here, retired General Royal Renolds, who was also fighting in Bataan with the 57th Infantry Regiment Philippine Scouts. He will be available for any questions later, since there wasn't sufficient time for him to make a speech.
The CHAIRMAN. Welcome, Mr. Ramsey.
Mr. RAMSEY. My name is Edwin Price Ramsey. I came from Los Angeles to attend this hearing, and I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you here today. I came in the hope that I can contribute, in some small way, to correcting a long-standing gross injustice toward the Filipino veterans of World War II. In order for me to do so, it is important that you'd be aware of my background and activities during that war.
At the beginning of the war, I was a First Lieutenant and a platoon leader with the 26th Calvary Regiment, Philippine Scouts, with whom I served through the fighting in Bataan until the surrender on April 9. We had been cut off on April 8 and didn't learn of the surrender until the 10th from troops who were escaping from Mariveles. At that time, the squadron commander gave those of us remaining the option of surrendering or trying to escape.
Captain Joseph R. Barker II, my troop commander, and I opted to try to escape with the objective of making our way to Australia. However, we were aware that in January, just prior to the Luzon forces withdrawing behind the main battle line in Bataan, General MacArthur had sent Lieutenant Colonel Claude Thorp, who had been Provost Marshal of Fort Stotsenburg, out of Bataan to establish resistance forces behind the enemy lines.
After escaping Bataan, we made contact with Colonel Thorp when passing near his headquarters on Mount Pinatubo. And then he convinced us to join him in building a resistance movement rather than trying for Australia. Thorp's command, which was the genesis of the USAFFE and American led guerilla forces, was entitled the USAFFE Luzon Guerilla Army Forces. Barker was designated by Thorp to organize and command the guerillas in central Luzon to be known as the East Central Luzon Guerillas Area, ECLGA, with me as his deputy. After the capture and later execution of both Thorp and Barker, I assumed command of ECLGA on February 1, 1943, and continued organizing and in command of that force until the liberation of Luzon in early 1945. At liberation, ECLGA was composed of 7 irregular divisions, organized in 6 central Luzon provinces and the City of Manila, with more than 40,000 officers and enlisted men who were attached during liberation to the U.S. 6th Army for operations. Should anybody be interested in further details of those activities, a soft-covered edition of my war years autobiography, Lieutenant Ramsey's War, published by Brassey's Inc., is still in print and available through bookstores or from the publisher.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After being repatriated to the U.S. and spending the better part of a year in the hospital, I was discharged in May and then recalled the following month, or the first of July, and asked to go back to the headquarters of the United States Army Forces of the Western Pacific in Manila to help reconstruct the guerilla records of ECLGA. After completing that effort and the issuance on 10 December 1946, of a General Order revising the rosters and recognition dates of ECLGA, I took my discharge in Manila and began a business career in Asia.
With that background, I would like to address the question of the status of Filipino veterans and their treatment, especially in respect to the Rescission Acts of 1946.
In July of 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the induction of the military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines into, and as part of, the United States Armed forces. The U.S. War Department implemented this Order by establishing the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, USAFFE, into which the Philippine forces were incorporated, and General Douglas MacArthur was recalled to duty and placed in command. It's impossible for me to understand how these Philippine troops could be federalized in the USAFFE without swearing allegiance to the United States of America and being considered as part of the United States Army.
When Barker and I, under the authority of Thorp, inducted Filipinos into the guerilla forces, we required that they all swear an oath of allegiance to the United States of America and to the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
In that connection, I question why there was a difference in the treatment accorded to the 65,000 or so Commonwealth of Puerto Rico troops and those from Hawaii and elsewhere who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II from that accorded to the Filipino veterans. It is my understanding that the Puerto Ricans and all other nationalities who fought as part of the American forces were treated in the same way as a native-born American for veterans' purposes.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippine's short-wave broadcasts from U.S. were full of exhortations to all Filipinos, and particularly those serving in the USAFFE, to continue resisting the Japanese. Support and relief were promised constantly to the defenders of Bataan, although none arrived. And many experts credit the heroic defense of Bataan with disrupting the Japanese timetable and saving Australia. In this connection, it should be noted that when the war broke out, there were less than 32,000 American regular U.S. troops in the Philippines, which only a small percentage were ground combat units, and only two regiments of those were composed of American soldiers. Those front line combat units were the 31st American infantry, the 26th Cavalry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, and the 57th and 45th Infantry Regiments, Philippine Scouts, plus the 4th Marines who were stationed on Corregidor.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I see that my time is up, Mr. Chairman, I have my written testimony here. I'm only sorry that after coming this far, I'm unable to complete reading this, because I believe most of this has a distinct bearing on this deliberation.
The CHAIRMAN. Colonel, I show two and half pages yet to go and I'm afraid we can't do that in fairness to all the others that have to testify.
Mr. RAMSEY. That's fine.
The CHAIRMAN. We still have two panels to go through. It will be printed in the record in its entirety.
Mr. RAMSEY. All right. I thank you for your consideration.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ramsey, with attachment, appears on p. 237.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Colonel. (Applause.)
Are there any questions?
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I deeply am appreciative of the testimony, and I know my colleagues learned a lot. You can see why I have called or others have called them the ''forgotten heroes'' of the war. Certainly their emotional testimony which is again only a small, small sample of the thousands of stories that we can hear, reenforces my commitment to this issue.
I think we have heard of how the American effort was granted time; we saved thousands of American lives. MacArthur estimated that billions of dollars were saved by the efforts of the units that were first regular and then irregular units, both holding the Japanese much longer than their timetable called for, and then, as you have heard, forcing them to devote incredible resources before they were ableor if they were ever able, to consolidate victory in the Philippines. So I think those issues are clear.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Colonel Ramsey, I just have one question for you. Is there any doubt in your mind that the men who were fighting under your command were in the active military service of the United States and, thus, entitled to any benefits that would accrue?
Mr. RAMSEY. None at all.
Mr. FILNER. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Chairman, I again, I think all of us on the committee are proud to be associated with these veterans who represent thousands of others.
I would point out, again, only 75,000, Dr. CookseyI think there are even less now than those figures showedare left alive. Their plea is very simple: justice, honor, and dignity. And I would hope that we can listen to this plea.
Mr. Chairman, with your permission, Rick Rocamora, a photographer who is exhibiting now in San Francisco, an exhibition called, ''The Unfinished Mission: The American Journey of Filipino World War II Veterans,'' is documenting the way these soldiers are living now in the United States. I would just like to pass some of them around to the members. I know it's not within our rules to display posters, but if Mr. Esclamado could have one minute to just show you what he has brought just for the purpose of his testimony. He'll be very brief.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. We realize that most of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate were born after the war and they never had an idea of what it was like to be at war. The Philippines was bombed twice by the Japanese and by the American soldiers. But every day, we had these headlines: (Mr. Esclamado presenting parties with headlines of new reports). ''One Brigade Smashes Jap Bases,'' ''Corregidor Shatters Invasion Forces,'' ''Corregidor Holds But Capital Believes All of Bataan's Defenders are Trapped or Slain,'' ''Attacks off Eastern CoastSavage U.S. Counter-Attacks Holds Japs Back,'' ''Japanese Held Back by MacArthur's Forces After 24-Hour Battles.''
The only point, Mr. Chairman, is that we have presented here a history of the war so that the Members of Congress may realize how it was like to be at war.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, and I am somewhat of a student of history, and there is no question that the Filipinos made a major contribution to our war effort at that time in World War II. And they were brave men and did a great job. I would emphasize that Filipinos continued to contribute to our military. I was in the Air Force, not in the Navy, but it's my understanding that there were a lot of Filipinos that served in the Navy and on naval vessels.
During the few days I was in the Philippines at Clark Air Force Base in 1969, I knew the Nogritos were actually running the jungle survival school there at Clark Air Force Base. They also provided security against the Huks who were communists in 1969, when communism was still in vogue, and they were defending Clark Air Force Base and did a great job of it. I understand the Huks were scared to death of the Nogritos. And the Nogritos were about this tall, and they were nice little people. So it is no question that the Filipinos have contributed to our military a lot.
A couple of questions. General Nanadiego?
Mr. NANADIEGO. Nanadiego.
Mr. COOKSEY. Approximately how many Japanese troops invaded the Philippines when they did invade? Do you have an idea?
Mr. NANADIEGO. Well, you know right nowI know I have the figures in the office, but I don't have it now.
Mr. COOKSEY. It was still an overwhelming force?
Mr. NANADIEGO. Yes.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOKSEY. They outnumbered the Philippines and the Americans that were there?
Mr. NANADIEGO. Yes, sir. At the moment, really, I cannot come up with a figure.
Mr. COOKSEY. I'm not a good enough student of history, I was justI do not know the answer.
Well, the thing that I would point out is that I feel that if there was a commitment made, there was certainly a commitment on the part of the Filipinos to contribute to this war effort. And I think it seems to be pretty good evidence that there was a commitment made by our leaders at the time, both General MacArthur and the President Roosevelt, that we had an obligation to the Filipinos. And I'm a great believer in honoring my word, my commitment. And I think that we should honor the commitments of our leaders, whatever they were.
I would point out that you were defending your homeland, as we had to defend our homeland against the British. We're on better terms today, fortunately. But in the late 1700's, the French assisted us in defending our homeland. And as late as the war of 1812, they continued to help us, but we've all had to defend our homeland; and you did a good job, and I'm glad we were able to help.
Over the years, though, we have put a lot of funding into the Philippines. At Clark Air Force Base, at Subic Bay in the Navy. We are no longer there and that was because of the will of the Filipino people, and I understand that. And I understand that the Navy has now based its operations not at Subic Bay but at Singapore.
The dilemma that we have though, as Members of Congressand I'm a freshman; I'm an old freshman, but a freshmanis that our resources in this country are not infinite, they are finite. And it seems that everyone comes to us wanting more of the American taxpayers' dollars. I have to go back to my district, I have to face people that are working, young people that are working, that complain to me because they're paying a lot of taxes. And they complain about foreign aide, and the truth is, we don't spend a lot on foreign aide. But we're also caught in the dilemma of how much more can we produce or expect the American taxpayers to spend around the world?
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And again, I would emphasize that I think we have an obligation here, and I think we should honor it.
The other concern that I have is how can we work this out, work it out through the legislative process? And that's what we ultimately must do is work it out through the legislative process in a manner that will be fair to both those Filipino veterans and yet, at the same time, to the American taxpayer.
My personal feeling is that if we're going to do something, I feel more of an obligation to those Filipino veterans of World War II who are currently American citizens, than I feel obligated to make some payments to those Filipino veterans who are not American citizens.
Mr. KENNEDY. Would the gentleman yield, briefly?
Mr. COOKSEY. Yes.
Mr. KENNEDY. I just was a little confused, I think, Dr. Cooksey, about the point you were making regarding the fact that the Filipino people were defending their own homeland. Wasn't it true that the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor?
Mr. COOKSEY. That's correct. I was alive then.
Mr. KENNEDY. Weren't we defending our own homeland as well?
And do you draw a difference between the Filipinos defending at the time it was a territory of the United States? Is there someare you trying to insinuate that there is some difference between their obligation to fight with the United States against the Japanese in World War II versus our own obligation?
Mr. COOKSEY. I was pointing out a fact of history that is that we were all defending our homeland. They were defending it, and we were helping to defend their homeland against the Japanese.
Mr. KENNEDY. Well, isn't the
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Gentleman, please suspend. If you want to get your own time, sir, we have been adhering strictly to the 5 minutesthe doctor has the time.
Mr. KENNEDY. Excuse me, Mr. Chairman. I asked the gentleman to yield. The gentlemanno, wait a second.
The CHAIRMAN. No, I am saying he is
Mr. KENNEDY. No, wait a second
The CHAIRMAN (continuing). Not going to yield. You are not running this committee like that.
Mr. KENNEDY. You have no right to interrupt me if Mr. Cooksey has
The CHAIRMAN. I have
Mr. KENNEDY (continuing). Given me his 5 minutes. You have no right to do that, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman, Dr. Cooksey's time has expired.
Now we have adhered to this 5-minute rule
Mr. KENNEDY. His time had not expired when he and I were conducting
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kennedy, if you want to speak, you are free to ask for time in a moment.
Mr. KENNEDY. That's exactly right, and I asked Dr. Cooksey; he yielded to me. You have no right to interrupt me like that.
The CHAIRMAN. You have used all of the doctor's time.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Mr. Chairman, can I try to reply to some of the questions that they asked?
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. You can respond to the question the doctor asked, Mr. Esclamado. Yes, sir.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Yes?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, respond to the question.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. There were 120,000 Filipino soldiers and 20,000 Americans, and they were out-numbered, 1 to 6, so at least half a million Japanese soldiers attacked Bataan alone. Okay?
I feel that the soldiers of the Philippines were not fighting for their homeland. They were fighting for the United States territory which happened to be the Philippines. So when you are a territory, you're on American soil.
Mr. RAMSEY. May I add to that?
The CHAIRMAN. The colonel is recognized.
Mr. RAMSEY. Yes. During the timewell, first off, I agree. The Philippines was part of America at that time, whether it was their homeland, it was also part of our homeland because it was part of our territory.
Second, I can't answerI've forgotten the numbers of the invading forces when they came in, but during the time in central Luzon, the area that I commanded in the guerilla forces, there was never less than 125,000 to 150,000 Japanese. Because this was the reserve area for the Japanese southwest Pacific. So I would suspect that they had more often than not, over half a million men in the Philippines back and forth.
But I'm more concerned with the thought that we would try to consider that they were fighting for their homeland. They were fightingprobabilities are, had we not been in the war, and were that not a territory of the United States, the Philippines may not have been attacked, because the Japanese were not looking for other places to stir up trouble. And it wasn't a major source of raw materials, such as it was in Indonesia and so forth.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the last point is, no other country in the world, as far as I know, and certainly not in Asia, did the subject people support their colonial masters as they did in the Philippines. The Indonesians turned on the Dutch; the Vietnamese turned on the French; the Malay and Burmese turned against the British. Only the Philippines were loyal to their masters. (Applause.)
Mr. ESCLAMADO. May I add, Mr. Chairman?
The CHAIRMAN. I didn't hear the gentleman.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. May I add to the point that was raised here?
The CHAIRMAN. And you answered him a while ago, I thought.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. There was something that really want to
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for a brief statement.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. General MacArthur spoke before the Joint Session of Congress in 1951, and there was one reference he made about the Philippines. The Philippines was a territory of the United States, and they were fighting for the American territory. And may I say that it is correct that we werethe Americans were fighting on American soil! Had these hills of Bataan and Corregidor not won 5 whole months for America to rearm material and men, certainly, the bombs would have fallen in California and Hawaii, again, and who knows? Where else in the continental U.S.? Half the country could have fallen into Japanese hands. It's lucky for America to have not seen bombs falling onto their heads. But the Filipinos had that twice; the smaller bombs of the Japanese and the bigger bombs of the Americans. And the great unfortunate thing that happened there was that America reneged again in its promise to pay fully Philippine war damage claims. That is the reason we used to celebrate July 4 jointly. July 4the Philippines celebrated July 4 with America. But because of the disgust of the Philippine Congress and the Filipino people, it changed in protest, the celebration of July 4, from July 4 with Americans, to June 12 for Filipinos alone, in protest.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. COOKSEY. Over this one issue? Is that the reason they quit celebrating?
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Yes, on this one issue. And I know because my father-in-law, and my wife is here, can testify to that. It's because America reneged on its promise to pay all war damage claims. And these soldiers will remember that Roosevelt broadcast that every chicken, every dog that was killed will be fully compensated for. And that was not happening. That's why they protested and changed their Independence Day date to June 12.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. KENNEDY. First of all, I didn't mean to cut off Dr. Cooksey, and I would happy to yield to him
Mr. COOKSEY. Just don't worry
Mr. KENNEDY (continuing). For whatever time he would choose to take.
Mr. COOKSEY (continuing). I'm not offended. I was only trying to get some history straight, and I've learned a lot. It's a great meeting. And I do salute you heroes, you veterans.
And thank you for the time; we're even now.
Mr. KENNEDY. I didn't mean to cut you off. And I think I was trying to deal with, what my perception, is the heart of the misperception about why this injustice has taken place. And that is that we have somehow found a way to differentiate between a Filipino veteran and a veteran of other territories. We differentiate between a Filipino veteran and a Puerto Rican veteran. We have in the past differentiated between black veterans. In my own State of Massachusetts, the 54th regiment in the Civil War went on strike and said they refused to take any pay despite the fact that theybecause they were being paid a different wage than white veterans. And so my point to you, Docand I didn't mean to insinuate anything about your particular perspective other than that it seemed to heighten the injustice that I think that the Filipino people feel.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What I sensed was that somehow or another we could take the notion that they were defending their own homeland when, in fact, we didn't grant them independence until 1946. We, and the Filipino people, were defending our joint homeland in World War II, and that is what I think is at the heart of this issue. They have brown skin, but they have red blood. (Applause.)
And to me, this is not a matter of dollars and cents. It's just a matter of morality; it's just a matter of whether or not we're going to say, look the VA probably over-estimates how much money this would cost. But however much money it costs, is how much we have to pay because that's our obligation
Mr. KENNEDY (continuing). And I'm not trying to lecture you, Doc, I'm trying to just let you, and let everybody, I guess, know what I believe is the sort of fundamental moral question at stake. And I don't think that your or my constituents, if they heard in fact all of the injustices, all of the courage, all of the sacrifice that the Filipino people have gone through and then to find outI mean when Mr. Filner first brought this to my attention, indicating that we were treating veterans in such a subservientFilipinos in such a subservient manner, I was just taken aback. I think all of us really owe a debt of gratitude to Bob Filner to be so dogged in his pursuit of this issue
The CHAIRMAN. The chair would ask the audience not to respond, please.
Mr. KENNEDY. But I do believe that this is a matter of our obligation to veterans who sacrificed for this country no matter what. And if we have to go back to the rest of the Congress and say, ''Hey, guys, you know what? We owe another $3 billion.'' Then we got to go back and ask them for the $3 billion. And that there ought to be an extraordinary, you know, outlay of funds, a supplemental budget to pay for this, we ought to go back and ask for it. And I just think the American people, all those young families that are paying too much in taxes, they're paying too much in taxes, but they are safe and secure in the United States of America because all these veterans went out and fought for this country. And even if they don't recognize that obligation, they have it. All of us have it. And I know, Doc, I know you have that same sense of obligation. That's why you serve in the Congress; that's why you served your country in the military. That's why you care very deeply about your job. And I'm just trying to say that I think all of us have that same obligation to the veterans.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I apologize to the chairman for jumping back at him. I thought he was sort of, you know, trying to cut me off from what I thought was my reasonable time.
But I do believe that we have this obligation. I think that the Filipino people have demonstrated their love and fidelity to this country, and I think we ought to pay up what we're due.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. We appreciate the proposal, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FILNER. Would the gentleman yield just for 30 seconds?
Mr. KENNEDY. I'd be happy to yield.
Mr. FILNER. I appreciate the words of Mr. Kennedy. I heard Dr. Cooksey as sayingI'm going to take him to represent, since he's the only one there beside the chair on the other side of the aislethat there is an obligation here, that there are realities of the budget, and that we must work togetherand I hope quicklyto find a resolution. And I know the chairman is committed to that, and I hope that since you have been here and listened very patiently, and I appreciate that very much, that we will work together to provide the honor within the constraints of our practical situation.
The CHAIRMAN. The chair recognizes Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I'm going to make it short again and not as eloquent as has already been stated. But we have the veterans that are here, and I see the Bronze star for valor in the war. And as we talk about these items, I can't think but recall a lot of the other situations where we've seen the President go to South Africa and apologize for past wrongs. And a lot of times we wait, and I can already see that, you know, that if we wait another 20 or 30 years, we're going to have a President go out there and apologize and after the fact.
And I think that we have, as very eloquently stated earlier, we might not have been the ones that did the thing, but we do have a responsibility. I think the whole committee has the responsibility to take some action, and if we don't, we're also responsible and partly responsible for not moving and not making things happen. So I really feel an obligation to do something about this issue. And I think you've indicated that we do have that obligation and we recognize that.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And too many times we look at that dollar, cent, without realizingand we share our values much more. And we should recognize that equal treatment, at least in this country, is one of the most important values that we all recognize how critical that is. And when we treat individuals differently, and we recognize that, we need to take those actions.
And, Mr. Chairman, I ask that we take this very seriously and that we try to do whatever we can to try to correct that, not next year, now. Because I can already see the, you know, just holding on and holding on and not doing anything. And I know if we don't do something now, I know I feel bad as it is. And I'm going to keep pushing with Bob to make something happen in this area.
And I just want to thank all the Filipino people for stickingand I would probably be angrier and protesting right now and doing other things probably that I shouldn't be doing. But I want to thank you for coming up here and sharing, you know, and educating us. And I know that for my part, I'm going to do whatever I can to make it happen now, and not 30 or 40 or 50 years from now. (Applause.)
Mr. ESCLAMADO. May I make a suggestion, Mr. Chairman?
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Esclamado, you've had your say and we'd like to move on.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Last one.
The CHAIRMAN. We have two more panels to go.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. Last one, Mr. Chairman, just one sentence?
The CHAIRMAN. Ten seconds.
Mr. ESCLAMADO. If this committee feels the burden of responsibility to take action on this, may we request that you share the responsibility with the whole House? After all, 191 co-sponsors have signed the bill. Why don't you let them share the responsibility of making this decision?
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Any other questions?
Gentleman, thank you.
I'll call up the second panel.
Since reference has been made to the GI Bill as far as benefits to the Filipino veterans, I feel compelled to put in some excerpts from a committee hearing that was held some 50 years ago. At that hearing, the chairman of the committee at that time, the Honorable Edith Rogers, and one of the senior Democrat members, Mr. Leonard Allen, had an exchange with a witness about this very subject. The witness, the Father James Haggerty, spent many years in the Philippines. Father Haggerty stated to the committee that the Philippine veterans believed that they were entitled to all of the benefits which American veterans were entitled to, including benefits under the 1944 GI Bill. Congressman Allen immediately contradicted him. Congressman Allen stated that he was one of three or four members present at the Veterans' Committee when the GI Bill in 1944 was written. Mr. Allen told Father Haggerty that the members never thought they were providing benefits to Filipino Army veterans. The chairman, Mrs. Rogers, who was also one of the authors of the 1944 GI Bill, confirmed Mr. Allen's statement and said the issue of providing benefits to Filipino veterans did not come up during their discussion. This contention of this very issue was debated when the committee was considering legislation proposed by the Truman administration. It should, also, be noted that the Truman administration proposal would have retroactively denied compensation benefits to many or most Filipino veterans who were receiving compensation at the time. Although many persons believe that the Truman administration intended to provide full benefits, you need to carefully examine what was actually proposed in 1946 and 1947.
(The information follows:)
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCExcerpt from Hearings before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Benefits relating to Service in the Philippines during World War IIMay 27 and June 10, 1948
Strip offset folios 1 and 2 insert here
Makes pp. 39 to 40
The CHAIRMAN. Our next panelif we can have a little order in the House, please. Thank you.
Our next panel, Mr. Joseph Thompson, Under Secretary of Benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Thompson, I believe you have a couple of people with you, if you'd care to introduce them, you may do so.
STATEMENTS OF JOSEPH THOMPSON, UNDER SECRETARY FOR BENEFITS, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ACCOMPANIED BY KENNETH CLARK, CHIEF NETWORK OFFICER, VETERANS' HEALTH ADMINISTRATION; AND ROBERT EPLEY, DIRECTOR OF COMPENSATION AND PENSION SERVICE; DENNIS SNOOK, SPECIALIST ON SOCIAL LEGISLATION, EDUCATION AND PUBLIC WELFARE DIVISION, CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; AND CLAYTON LAURIE, HISTORIAN, HISTORIES DIVISION, U.S. ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH THOMPSON
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On my immediate right is Robert Epley. He's the Director of the Compensation and Pension Service. And on his right is Ken Clark, who is the Chief Network Officer for the Veterans' Health Administration.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir. You may proceed. And let me remind you that your statements will be printed in their entirety in the record, and would ask that you'd summarize in a 5-minute period if you could.
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm pleased to be here this morning to provide information regarding benefits the Department of Veterans Affairs provides to Filipino veterans.
For purposes of VA benefits and services, the service of members of the Philippine armed forces
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Thompson, would you pull the mic a little bit closer, please?
Mr. THOMPSON. Yes, sir. Is that better?
The CHAIRMAN. That's better.
Mr. THOMPSON. Okay.
For purposes of VA benefits and services, the service of members of the Philippine armed forces can be categorized as service in one of four groups: the Old Philippine Scouts, the New Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Commonwealth Army, and the recognized guerilla forces.
Service in the Old Philippine Scouts is considered to have been active service in the United States Armed Forces. Accordingly, those who served in the Old Philippine Scouts qualify for the full range of VA benefits and services at full benefit rates on the same basis as U.S. veterans.
Service in the New Philippine Scouts, the Commonwealth Army, and recognized guerilla forces limits eligibility to essentially compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors. Additionally, those who qualify for these benefits, are paid at the rate of 50 cents on the dollar.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC History shows that the limitations on eligibility for U.S. benefits based on service in these Philippine forces were based on a carefully considered determination of the two government's responsibility towards them. The Philippines became a sovereign nation on July 4, 1946. U.S. laws passed in that year specifically limited the range of benefits available to those who served in the Commonwealth Army, the New Philippine Scouts, and the recognized guerilla forces.
The U.S. provided $200 million to the Philippine Army to help pay benefits to its soldiers as part of a comprehensive, economic, and political plan for allocating financial assistance to the Philippines. Other acts passed by Congress in 1947 and 1948 provided additional monetary assistance.
Within months of gaining its independence, the Republic of the Philippines enacted a GI Bill of Rights that provided a broad range of benefits to its veterans including compensation for service-connected death and disability, education benefits, reemployment rights, reference and public employment, home loans, hospitalization, tax exemptions, and more.
But further regard to the payment of monetary benefits, section 107(a) of title 38, U.S. code, provides that benefit payments based on service in the Philippine Commonwealth Army, including recognized guerilla units and the New Philippine Scouts, shall be made at the rate of 50 cents for each dollar authorized.
Mr. Chairman, we estimate the present population of Filipino veterans and survivors receiving compensation or DIC from VA to be approximately 6,250 veterans and 7,000 survivors. Approximately 1,250 Filipino veterans with service-connected disabilities reside in the United States. We estimate that compensation benefits paid to all Filipino veterans and their survivors in fiscal year 1998 will total $17.2 million and $37.8 million, respectfully, for a total of approximately $55 million. The average annual benefit paid to individual service-connected Filipino veterans is $2,745.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With regard to medical care for Filipino veterans, since World War II, the U.S. has provided assistance through the Philippines in a number of different ways in order to facilitate the provision of medical care to eligible veterans. This has been accomplished by the direct conveyance of facilities and equipment, as well as a series of grants and contracts to support Filipino veterans.
VA provides care in the Philippines to U.S. veterans only for their service-connected disabilities. The Manila VA Outpatient Clinic, in conjunction with the regional office, does provide compensation and pension examinations for certain Filipino veterans. The VA may, within the limits of VA facilities, provide hospital and nursing home care and medical services to Commonwealth Army veterans and New Philippine Scouts only for treatment of service-connected disabilities. Contacts with VA staffs on some of our West Coast facilities indicate that VA does generally provide treatment for the service-connected conditions of these Filipino veterans. Total expenditures for VHA in the Philippines in fiscal year 1997 were $3.2 million.
Mr. Chairman, on June 17 of this year, VA submitted a legislative proposal to remove the current 50 cent on the dollar limitation in the cases of certain Filipinos who reside in the United States.
The limitation on benefit payments to these beneficiaries was intended to reflect differing economic conditions in the Philippines and the United States. Although these limitations were not made contingent, in any respect, on the place of residence of the beneficiary, at the time the limitations were established, the great majority of affected individuals did reside in the Philippines. Through the years, numerous Filipino veterans and their dependents and survivors have immigrated to this country, and many have become permanent residents or citizens. Policy considerations underlying the current restrictions on payments of compensation and DIC to the affected individuals are no longer relevant in the case of those who reside in the United States. Filipino beneficiaries residing in the U.S. face living expenses comparable to U.S. veterans. Therefore, we believe a change in law is warranted in the case of compensation and DIC benefits payable to U.S. residents based on service in the Philippine Commonwealth Army, including recognized guerilla units or the New Philippine Scouts. Thus, we propose 50 cents on the dollar limitation be eliminated in the case of these beneficiaries.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Thompson, with attachment, appears on p. 246.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Thompson.
Are there questions of Mr. Thompson?
Mr. FILNER. Just briefly.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, perhaps you would rather hear the whole panel?
Mr. FILNER. I'll be glad to wait, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I'm sorry?
Mr. FILNER. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Let's do that then.
Mr. Thompson, did you intend for the other two that are with you to make a statement?
Mr. THOMPSON. No, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. THOMPSON. That will suffice.
The CHAIRMAN. Our next witness, Dr. Dennis Snook, Specialist on Social Legislation, Education and Public Welfare Division, Congressional Research Service, is from the Library of Congress.
STATEMENT OF DENNIS SNOOK
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SNOOK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Dennis Snook of the Congressional Research Service. It's a honor to appear before the committee this morning and especially in the presence of so many heroes who fought so hard and suffered so much.
As part of the act establishing the interim rules under which the Commonwealth proceeded towards independence, the U.S. authorized the formation of Commonwealth military forces, retaining the right to place those forces under U.S. command if, in the view of the U.S., such a move was warranted by a security threat. No mention is made of individual soldiers; insofar as they were citizens of the Commonwealth or officers of its government, they were required to accept the supreme authority of the United States during the interim period.
While the act eventually caused individual soldiers to become subject to the command of U.S. military leaders, the U.S. neither initiated their initial conscription or enlistment, and the U.S. did not specify the terms of their individual obligations to the Commonwealth other than that the units were under U.S. command.
For that matter, actual membership in the Commonwealth Army was in large part determined by the Commonwealth government, even while those units were under U.S. command. While the President of Philippine's Executive Order No. 21 making recognized guerillas members of the Commonwealth Army was seemingly approved by General Douglas MacArthur, that order was not an order from the U.S. War Department, but by the Commonwealth government.
Indeed, while the U.S. Army assumed the costs of the Philippine Army, including pay, supply, and training, considerable latitude was granted to the Commonwealth government to set the level of that pay. Only upon examination, internal deliberation, and decision did the War Department force the rescinding of the pay raise granted in Executive Order No. 22 which was issued on that same day in 1944 and would have raised the pay of Commonwealth Army enlisted men to that of U.S. Army personnel.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There were efforts to equalize pay initiated by the War Department earlier in the war, and while they received support in Congress, the efforts were ultimately abandoned as combined U.S. Filipino forces began to surrender their positions in the Philippines. Perhaps support for this pay equalization plan, along with the end of that support, can in part be understood as a recognition of the shared hardships the embattled forces were suffering, but also as an earnest attempt to stiffen resolve by a defense establishment reluctant to accept the inevitability of surrender of our Philippine forces.
Many Filipino soldiers apparently believe that their service was a basis for becoming entitled to whatever benefits might be given to U.S. military personnel. In part, this belief could have been based on ill-advised promises made by U.S. officers. No U.S. official was authorized by law to make such promises, and no evidence has been uncovered which suggests that such promises were made whether or not such authority existed to make them.
Statements about what should take place were commonly made by a number of leaders. Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, among other, spoke of U.S. obligation to Filipino soldiers, sometimes accompanied by qualifiers as to the difficulties in properly administering and designing such benefits.
Until Congress enacted special provisions governing benefits for Filipino veterans of World War II, officials of the then Veterans' Administration believed that Filipino service met the definition of active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. At that time, Congress concluded that the soon-to-be independent Republic of the Philippines could ill afford the immense costs of maintaining Commonwealth Army soldiers at pay levels given U.S. soldiers. It also concluded that benefits paid at U.S. veteran levels would also be an unwise expenditure.
But as the War Department arguments about pay equalization show, such pay or benefit levels would have provided a standard of living to recipients well beyond the reach of most Philippine private workers and public officials, creating an economically advantaged class of war veterans that could not be supported by the new government, and who would be entirely dependent upon the departing sovereign power of the United States. In fact, one of the Filipino military units, the Philippine Scouts recruited under a 1945 congressional act, would have constituted a relatively highly compensated military elite of Filipino citizens that would remain in the command structure of the United States Army, certainly, an unattractive situation for an emerging nation.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the full benefits had been reserved only for veterans residing in the United States, the higher compensation rates would have constituted a transparent inducement for such veterans to immigrate to the United States if at all possible, also an unattractive signal for a country attempting to recover and rebuild from the ashes of war and to establish its independence from the U.S. In fact the Philippine government asked that we suspend accepting applications for special naturalization benefits that would have allowed these Filipino veterans to easily immigrate to the United States, and we complied in a decision ultimately repudiated by U.S. courts.
Finally, the issue is sometimes posed as one of U.S. obligations to particular members of its Armed Forces that were unfairly denied. How this claim is evaluated depends to a large extent on the view taken toward participation of these soldiers. Clearly, U.S. strategic policy before and during World War II assumed that defense of the Philippine Islands was in the national interest of the United States and committed U.S. military might to achieve our strategic objectives in the archipelago.
Yet just as clearly, units of Filipino soldiers brought into the U.S. force structure were initially formed for the defense of the archipelago against foreign invasion and internal disorder, especially given the anticipated independence from U.S. sovereignty, and with that independence, a potential diminishing American commitment to Philippine military security. Throughout the war, Filipino soldiers fought valiantly for that future independence.
Practical administrative difficulties, as well as serious political implications, prevented simply granting full benefits to persons in the Philippines. Congress concluded that for the U.S. to provide equivalent benefits to Filipino citizens could create problems for the new nation as it sought to develop its independence from the United States.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my oral testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Snook appears on p. 271.]
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Doctor.
Our next witness, Dr. Clayton Laurie, Historian, Histories Division, U.S. Army Center for Military History.
STATEMENT OF CLAYTON LAURIE
Mr. LAURIE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have submitted a brief statement for insertion into the record.
I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the committee today. I am Dr. Clayton Laurie, Historian, Histories Division, United States Army Center of Military History. My purpose in testifying here today is to respond to the committee's request that a representative from the Army Historical Center testify as to whether our records contain statements by General MacArthur supporting full postwar benefits for Filipino veterans.
The U.S. Army Center for Military History examined its holdings on General MacArthur and found no reference by this wartime leader to postwar benefits for Filipino veterans. We previously responded to your committee with this information, suggesting that records might be available from the following organizations: the MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and the National Archives.
We understand that your committee formally contacted both the MacArthur Memorial Library and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and their responses were similar to ours. Yesterday we received an additional request from your committee asking that the Center of Military History send a representative to the National Archives to determine if their records contain information responsive to the question of whether General MacArthur made statements supporting full postwar benefits for Filipino veterans.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I personally visited the National Archives yesterday, examined a small portion of War Department records dealing with benefit matters regarding Filipino servicemen, and found no records by General MacArthur making such statements.
I understand that in March of 1998, the Army provided your committee with a 1973 report entitled, ''The Status of Members of Philippine Military Forces During World War II,'' which was prepared by the Office of the Chief of Military History, the current Center of Military History.
Our review indicates this report was prepared from the research conducted in the same group of War Department records that I inspected at the National Archives. That report contains no indication of any statement by General MacArthur supporting postwar benefits for Filipino veterans. Based upon the Army's extensive search of its records at the Center of Military History, both recently and in 1973, the Center is certain that no other relevant documents exist in the Center's archives.
In addition to our search of Center records, the U.S. Army Reserve Personnel Command also examined its records and indicated that any documentation that they may have had has now been transferred to the National Archives. I understand this information was also conveyed to your committee this past March.
We were also asked yesterday to explain whether other relevant documents should be examined. The National Archives does hold extensive U.S. Army records from World War II. I do not know whether an extensive search of these records by private researchers, the Congressional Research Service, or the Department of Veterans Affairs has been completed. Such a search may provide relevant information.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That concludes my statement.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Laurie appears on p. 289.]
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Doctor.
Are there questions?
Mr. FILNER. I thank the chairman, and I thank the panel for being here.
For a minute I'm going to put on my hat that I wore before I was a Congressman, which was a professor of history for 20 years, so I think I have some experience in reading documents and making conclusions.
I think the committee's question to you about promises, perhaps, was a little off target. Whether there were or were not promises, let's not argue, because I could bring up 50 of the people in the audience, and they will say they heard such promises. But that's not the issue, because it doesn't matter who did or did not make any promises. Anybody who goes to the Armed Forces today gets what is entitled to them by law, whatever representations were made by the recruitment officer. In fact, many veterans complain today that they are not getting the health services that they were promised. And that's a whole other issue that this committee ought to be taking up.
But the issue is whether who ever has the status of a veteran gets what is legally due them. Right?
Now, if that's the case, Dr. Snook, in your testimony you went back and forth but you end up by saying the United States District Court concluded in cases that were filed that Filipino soldiers under U.S. command as a result of the Presidential Order of July 6, 1941, were, and I quote, ''in active service of the land or naval forces of the United States, that is, for the purposes of veterans' benefits.'' That's conclusive; it doesn't matter if you can find any promises or not. A court found that they were in the active service. That is why the Rescissions Act was passed.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Why, by the way, if I can ask two historians, why would the Rescissions Act be needed if the Filipino soldiers were not entitled to benefits under the law? Why would the Congress have to say, ''We don't care what you did or who you were, under the law, you were not deemed to be in the active service.''
Why was that law passed if there was not a necessity for it?
Mr. SNOOK. I don't think I, at any point, concluded that there was never a time in which these men met the definition that was in the law as to being veterans of the U.S. armed services.
Mr. FILNER. They did meet the definition.
Mr. SNOOK. I agree.
Mr. FILNER. Thank you.
Mr. SNOOK. They did meet the definition. However, as
Mr. FILNER. We changed the definition.
Mr. SNOOK. As you point out, the term ''entitled,'' means from the law. At the point at which the law was changed, then they no longer had that.
Mr. FILNER. I understand but
Mr. SNOOK. I think
Mr. FILNER (continuing). The whole point is the law changed.
Mr. SNOOK. The law
Mr. FILNER. And it changed because they were entitled, and the law probably changed because it cost money, because there was independence, and it was easier for the Congress at that time not to have to deal with that issue so they just passed the law.
Mr. SNOOK. I examined that question at great length. Why would Congress have done this? Certainly, the initial presumption would be that they did it to save money. But I found that a very difficult presumption to pursue
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FILNER. I don't mean to interrupt, Dr. Snook. It doesn't matter why they passed it. It's a law that took away the benefits. My only point was, the law was necessary because there was a presumption that they had benefits. That's my only point, and I think the courts decided that. The VA Administrator at the time, General Bradley, admitted it. The law was legal. We're trying to change the law right now, at least I am. So, all I want to do is make that point.
Second, for Mr. Thompson and for the committee staff here, I assume the press got this handout called, ''Types of Filipino Veterans.''
(The information follows:)
Offset folios 3 to 6 insert here
Makes pp. 49 to 52
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I just want to point out that the benefits at the one-half rate for these categories apply only, as I understand it, to service-connected. It's not everybody who has served in these capacities who gets benefits. It's only those who have service-connected disabilities. Is that correct? That's not said here.
And there is only approximately, according Mr. Thompson's testimony, about 6,000, a little more than 6,000 of those who get service-connected benefits. So I just want to point out to those who have this handout, we're talking about 10 percent of the veterans who are left alive get disability payments because they were service-connected. Is that correct, Mr. Thompson?
Mr. THOMPSON. There are 81,000 left alive; 6,250 of them are receiving disability compensation.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FILNER. Okay. And that 6,000, by the way gets, according to your testimony, about $17 million dollars?
Mr. THOMPSON. $17.2 million.
Mr. FILNER. Right.
Mr. THOMPSON. There are an additional 7,500 survivors.
Mr. FILNER. I understand the survivors.
Mr. THOMPSON. Okay.
Mr. FILNER. But if we were talking about a non-service-connected pension for the 90 percentI don't see how the estimate of the VA came about. If $17 million represents the payment around 10 percent of the population, then 10 times that is no where near $1.6 billion. It's near $170 million, and that's the framework in which we should be talking about, not this other category. I don't understand how that other figure came about, because if this is what we're paying for 10 percent, then multiply that by 10 and you get a figure.
So I hope, as I talked to you privatelythat the VA will work with us with constructive solutions to this with the criteria. We don't want to take a cent from any existing program. I know the chair would not allow that to occur, and this committee would not vote for that. But without taking a cent from present-day programs, can we find the money to do honor to these veterans? That's the issue, and I hope the VA will work with us on that. And I hope the chair will do that, also.
I see the chairman of the Benefits Committee here. I hope he will be involved with that, obviously.
Mr. QUINN. We will absolutely work with you on that.
Mr. FILNER. I appreciate that, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. And I thank the gentleman.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Quinn.
Mr. QUINN. I have no questions for the committee, Mr. Chairman. I wanted to thank you for holding the hearing and to pledge my support to Mr. Filner, as he and I have worked together on so many projects. This is another in a long list that I'm ready, willing, and able to help in any way I can.
The CHAIRMAN. I have some questions I'd like to ask. I may have to submit some for the record and stay in my 5-minute time limit.
First off, Dr. Snook, would you finish answering the question in regard to the changing of the law as far as the Filipino veterans are concerned?
Mr. SNOOK. As I was saying, I think there's no question that the law before the Rescission Act provided no distinction within the definition of ''armed service.'' At the same time, though, I think that it was not yet fully contemplated what that might mean. The passage of the GI Bill in 1944 completely changed the package of benefits that were available to veterans. Up until that time, the primary obligation of the Government towards veterans was to care for them in hospitals and to provide them with some compensation if they were injured in the line of service.
But readjustment was a two-way street. It was not only for the benefit of the veterans, but it was for the benefit of our economy that was going to be facing massive demobilization of American troops.
To take that same concept and to apply it to the Philippine Islands of 1946 was to call into question the very idea of Philippine independence. I think that while certainly Congress always considers the cost of something, I think to not take under consideration the very clear deliberations of the committee responsible and how it went about making its decision about what was best, not only for Filipino veterans but for the new emerging Commonwealth of the Philippines, I think is to not pay close historical sense to what was done at the time.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Thompson, is the CBO estimate of $5 billion in direct spending over 5 years generally consistent with the VA's estimate of the cost of legislation providing all Filipino veterans with the same benefit as American veterans?
Mr. THOMPSON. Yes. Yes, it is, Mr. Chairman. Our estimate last year was approximately $6 billion over 6 years. And the CBO estimate I believe is approximately $5 billion over 5 years. There may have been some high-side estimates on that, but the two estimates do equate.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you please comment on some subsidiary costs that the VA may incur in processing all these claims, and give us an estimate as to that cost if you could.
Mr. THOMPSON. I'm going to ask Mr. Epley, if I could, since the Compensation and Pension Service is responsible for the processing of claims. I'm going to ask him to speak to that if I may.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Epley.
Mr. EPLEY. Sir, the administrative costs associated with that would clearly be involved in the additional number of claims that we would anticipate receiving for pension. It would require additional manpower to handle those claims. The types of claims that we're doing now in the Manila regional office do require somewhat different and special procedures to verify service. There are other procedures regarding field review and verification of evidence that would have to be pursued.
The CHAIRMAN. How many FTE's would that be, Mr. Epley?
Mr. EPLEY. Our estimate is about 127 FTEs
(Subsequently, the Department of Veterans provided the following information:)
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our estimate is about 127 FTEs. (full time employees). In addition, we also need to include overtime funds to complete the workload which cannot be completed by the adjudication staff in Manila. The development of these cases is more complex and takes additional time to initially process. Overtime costs would decline as the claims were worked.
The CHAIRMAN. One hundred and twenty-seven?
Mr. Thompson, in a written response about the question of fraudulent residency if, in fact, that we were able to increase the pay for those living in the United States, how in the world do you police that?
Mr. THOMPSON. I didn't hear the last part, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. If, in fact, we propose to increase the payment on the same level as an American GI gets of those that have now moved and are residents of the United States, not the 50 percent that they get in the Philippines. It seems to me that there's a lot of room for a lot of fraud there. How would the VA go about policing that?
Mr. THOMPSON. That's something that's under review right now, and it would depend on how the law is written and what the requirements are. We are in contact with the Immigration Naturalization Service. Some of the issues about whether if they're a citizen, they're different from being a resident alien. That's something we're pursuing right now so I don't have a definitive answer at this time, but we expect to have one in the not-to-distant future.
The CHAIRMAN. If you would submit an answer to that for the record, we would appreciate it and as expeditiously as possible and with as much detail as possible, sir.
Mr. THOMPSON. We will do, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Snook, you covered under your comments, I think, the Filipino veterans were promised pensions during the war. Would you commentwould you expand on that a little bit? Is that
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SNOOK. Well, we looked in all records that were available to us to see if there was a promise documented, and could find none. It's easy to imagine promises being made by any number of people in the field. And certainly, the history of recruiting officers making promises that aren't then backed up by the law is clear. However, there were no promises made by anyone in the position to make such promises. And had there been promises made, they would have still required congressional endorsement. And Congress would have had to deliberate such a move rather carefully, I think.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
I do have three letters, without objection, that I'd like to insert in the record. And that is the letter from the Department of the Army, and a letter from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and also another one from the Army entitled, ''Status of Members of Filipino Military Forces During World War II.'' And I would like to submit those for the record. It deals with the history of whether that promise was made or not, of these three letters. Without objection.
(The information follows:)
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Makes pp. 56 to 58
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Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Filner?
Mr. FILNER. Just very briefly, Mr. Chairman. I know by your questions, your duty to get at the cost. I just hope you weren't implying that any fraud or deceit would be special to this situation, as opposed to any other situation that might occur. And I'm sure the VA has to deal with that question on all issues.
Just for the recordMr. Thompson is relatively new in his position and he has promised me a conversation on this issue, but I have long conversations with the VA staff on the assumptions they used that came up with their cost estimate which included, again, the worst case scenario of every possible situation. That every possible person would get the maximum benefits without taking any account of any probabilities in this regard, and also assuming that the legislation would have to have the same provision for payment whether one lived in a country of high standard of living or low standard of living, and also not taking into account that pensions received might give vast savings in other payments that the Government is making through SSI and other programs.
So I think the cost estimate, which we must have to fulfill our responsibilities, Mr. Chairman, should be refinedmore than refinedand also in an atmosphere of, here are certain options. That if you did this with the legislation, here's what it would cost. If you did that, it would cost less. Rather than try to shoot down the legislation by saying it cost too much, give us some ways that we might honor our obligations, as most of the folks who are on the committee said here today. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, thank you very much. I've discussed this with Mr. Filner and it is the intention of the chair to go ahead and complete our agenda. We have an opportunity because of the 4-hour debate going on on the floor, and we want to take advantage of that so that we would not be disrupted or interrupted.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like for panel four to come up if they would please.
Mr. Manhan, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Zweiman.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to be with us. We appreciate it very much. We'll proceed as rapidly as possible. I'll remind you that your entire statements will be printed in the record. And if you'd care to summarize, we'd appreciate it.
First, Mr. Bob Manhan, assistant director, National Legislative Service, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
STATEMENTS OF BOB MANHAN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS; CARROLL WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR FOR VETERANS; AFFAIRS AND REHABILITATION COMMISSION, THE AMERICAN LEGION, AND ROBERT ZWEIMAN, INTERNATIONAL LIAISON, JEWISH WAR VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
STATEMENT OF BOB MANHAN
Mr. MANHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, for inviting the VFW to participate in this very complex hearing this morning.
Mr. FILNER. Sir, can you bring the microphone right up to you?
Mr. MANHAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. FILNER. Thank you very much.
Mr. MANHAN. The VFW presented a very brief written statement that was primarily a snapshot of American and Filipino military actions during the years 1939 to 1946, and we attempted to suggest that most reasonable people would accept the fact that those Filipinos, for all practical purposes, served in the same capacity as American military persons. And then we make the assumption that they therefore should be entitled to all VA benefits.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We concluded our testimony by offering a VFW Resolution No. 620, which is almost identical to House Bill H.R. 836 which would extend all VA entitlements that American servicemen presently have to the World War II Filipino veterans. The VFW statement ends with a compromise position to work with others to get some legislation passed this session that may not include all benefits for all Filipino veterans. However, the VFW would want full veteran benefits for Filipino veterans who presently have American citizenship.
I think this is a fair summary of our position.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be glad to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Manhan appears on p. 291.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Manhan.
Mr. Williams, director of Veterans' Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, the American Legion.
STATEMENT OF CARROLL WILLIAMS
Mr. WILLIAMS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.
It's a pleasure to be here to present the American Legion's views on this significant issue.
As most of you are aware, Mr. Chairman, throughout the great World War II, the men of the Commonwealth Army, including those recognized guerillas, served under the same command and banner as other members of the United States Armed Forces. They fought bravely at Bataan and Corregidor and in many battles to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese Imperial government.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The American Legion believes that it has been an injustice to continue to deny these veterans and their survivors the same benefits as authorized for other U.S. veterans who fought in the very same battles.
At the 1996 National Convention, delegates representing all 56 departments of the American Legion, including the Department of the Philippines, adopted resolutions in support of Philippine veterans. Resolution No. 97 called for legislation that would provide equal benefits to naturalized Filipino veterans and their survivors. Resolution No. 98 supports legislation to amend title 38, United States Code, section 107, which would recognize the status of Philippine veterans of World War II. The American Legion continues to advocate both resolutions.
The President's fiscal year 1999 budget request for VA included a legislative proposal to pay those Philippine veterans currently in receipt of VA disability compensation who reside in the United States at the full benefit rate. The estimated additional cost was $25 million over 5 years. Funding for this, as well as several other proposed benefit improvements, was to come from projected savings of $17 billion resulting from the enactment of restriction on tobacco-related disease claims.
The American Legion vigorously opposed this effort to take away veterans' historic right to compensation for diseases which are related to their military service, including those related to the use of tobacco products while on active duty. Unfortunately, Members of Congress enacted the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, public law 105178 which prohibited compensation of tobacco-related claims. The American Legion is continuing to work to have this provision of the law repealed and the necessary funding restored to VA.
The increased benefit rates for certain Philippine veterans proposed in the President's budget request, in our opinion, is inadequate. It failed to redress the payment limitations which would still apply to those Philippine veterans in receipt of VA benefits who live outside of the United States. Moreover, the American Legion strongly opposed the idea and reality of taking away for one group of service-disabled veterans to pay benefits to another group of equally deserving service-disabled veterans.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, the American Legion is very cognizant of the realities and limitations of the budget process which requires that funds be identified for such additional benefits. The American Legion believes it would be manifestly unfair to attempt to remedy one injustice by creating another injustice. Therefore, the American Legion strongly urges the Congress to act forthrightly to appropriate sufficient funds to VA to cover the increased benefit and workload costs associated with this legislation. Congress must also ensure that such action will not have any negative or detrimental effect on funding for current VA benefits.
Critics and opponents of H.R. 836 have cited the possible cost and budget impact of such initiatives as reasons to defeat any such legislation, In addressing the real problem of funding for H.R. 836, the American Legion suggests that the Congress seriously consider utilizing funds from the projected surplus in the fiscal year 1999 Federal budget. Provisions could be made to allocate needed funds to VA to pay for the expanded benefit. There are, however, widely varying estimates as to total cost involved. In order for the Congress to make a fair and accurate assessment of the level of funding required to implement this legislation, caseload and benefit cost estimate must be based on realistic assumptions and accurate data, including information on the differences in the cost of living in the United States and the Republic of the Philippines, as well as projected offsets to Federal benefits currently being paid to Philippine veterans residing in the United States, and other factors.
In conclusion, the Philippine veterans have been denied benefits for far too long. For this reason, the American Legion is asking this committee and Congress to give favorable consideration to H.R. 836.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony, and thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Williams appears on p. 298.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Williams. (Applause.)
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Zweiman, International Liaison for the Jewish War Veterans of the United States.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT ZWEIMAN
Mr. ZWEIMAN. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am Bob Zweiman. I'm a past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans, and I appreciate the opportunity that you have afforded us to speak at this issue, especially since it is an issue which the chairman, himself, according to all the papers, is not supporting. This shows a democracy in action which can only be to our benefit where the chairman of the committee will go ahead with the hearing on an issue he disagrees with and which we hope will be passed by this Congress. And for that, Mr. Chairman, we appreciate it as we appreciated your actions during spina bifida and in many other issues that you have supported
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. ZWEIMAN (continuing). The Veterans' Committee.
One of the thingsI was in the Philippines, and I also returned back to the Philippines back in 1987. There was one overriding condition that existed which we found both when we worked side-by-side to accomplish a purpose, and then when we went back to see that the purpose was accomplished.
We, of the United States, have had allies. Many of these allies are specious allies, as we saw in the Gulf conflict. The Filipinos, however, were not allies. They never were allies. They were our comrades in arms; they fought with us, along side us, sustaining the same injuries, the same blood, and hoping for the same resulta democratization of the Middle East. And in this respect, they deserve both our attention, and they deserve our honor. To go through as the gentleman before us did to say it ain't in writing so, therefore, it ain't going to be taken care of is an insult to the integrity and the honor of the United States of America in the fulfillment of its commitment and a commitment it, in fact, was.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We speak very strongly about costs. Costs causing the nonemployment of this, and yet at the same time, we allow the Government to steal $15 to $17 billion out of the American health care so that they can build roads to pork farms. We allow them to put in moratoriums without indexing and promise us Medicate subvention and then totally ignore it. We see them firing 28,000 American personnel from health services and then closing down over 22,000 beds because they don't have the people qualified to take care of it.
We now talk of a surplus, a surplus to be used for tax benefits, while a number of our veterans are among those hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been thrown off their jobs, fired out of their jobs, finding themselves homeless, and looking to support from the VSO's. We consist of approximately one-third to 40 percent of those homeless are veterans of the United States who served their Nation, who are entitled, frankly, as are the Filipinos to a recognitionand not merely a recognition, an assistance to do that.
Our honor and our integrity is being employed 50 years too late. We should have done it before; it was our obligation to do it before. We're down to 75,000I think the number used. How many others have gone the way of being treated as bums because we did not have the honor to treat them as human beings.
We, of the veterans' community, more particularly, the Jewish War Veterans, look at this possibly in a convoluted fashion. We look at the treatment afforded to our Philippine brothers and sisters as auguring the type of treatment which we, as American veterans, may see our Government bestowing upon us, not by way of rescission of the fact that we are actively engaged, but due to some sort of a budgetary difference to the obligation of this Nation to those who have provided its defense and who, after providing its defense, have gone into the hospitals and into the work fields and said to our fellow veterans, ''You have served this Nation; you have served it well. We are here to support you in what you do. You will not be forgotten; you will not be ignored. You will not be demeaned, but that you are going to be held high.'' And that's what should be done to the Philippine veterans and what should have been to them for the past 50 years. (Applause.)
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And it's something that we, ourselves, cannot allow to happen to the 27 million present American veterans. They deserve better, and they're entitled to be treated as human beings. We may have outlived our time and lived longer than you anticipated; but live it we will, enjoy it we shall. We look to you to help do that.
If there's any other questions you may have for the Jewish Veterans, I'll be more than happy to answer them.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
[The prepared statement of Mr. Zweiman appears on p. 303.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir.
Mr. FILNER. Just briefly, I appreciate the testimony today, and we've had submitted testimony from other VSO's, Veterans' Service Organizations.
I really admire your being here. I suspect there was not a grassroots, you know, revolution saying, ''Come and testify here today.'' You did it out of the fact that you care for veterans and as we heard in the last testimony, you understand thatif I can quote you, sira budgetary indifference to a benefit for one group is going to affect everybody. I really am grateful for your understanding of the broader ramifications of this for all veterans who are your membership, and we're all in this together.
Mr. ZWEIMAN. Thank you.
Mr. FILNER. And I really appreciate your eloquent testimony.
Mr. Williams, did you want to
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, I'd just like to thank you for your efforts on behalf of the veterans of World War II, specifically, the Philippine veterans. But as far as we're concerned, a veteran is a veteran is a veteran, and that's important.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
Mr. FILNER. Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Bob, you indicated that the VFW passed a resolution supporting this proposal?
Mr. MANHAN. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. And your group is a member that prepares the Independent Budget each year. What I find surprising is looking back over the last 10 or 12 years, that there's no mention of it ever in the Independent Budget. How would you characterize that or the work the VFW is doing on this issue then?
Mr. MANHAN. Your statement is absolutely correct, Mr. Chairman. VFW is one of a total of about 55 different veterans' service organizations, agencies, or activities that have a vested interest in how well, or how not so well, the Department of Veterans Affairs functions.
Having said that, our Independent Budgetwhich you see every year in this committeeis an alternate budget to the Administration's Budget, where we ask Congress to give VA more money so they may better perform their missions, such as to improve their adjudication system. Another example is to have more money go into the VA's medical system.
We feel the VA isn't really doing everything very well at this time.
The CHAIRMAN. Pardon me?
Mr. MANHAN. I mean the Independent Budget is not designed to add more requirements onto the VA. And I must say, also, that very few of the 55 agencies, activities, or other veteran organizations have a resolution pertaining to the Filipinos who fought with the United States Armed Forces during World War II.
Mr. FILNER. If the chairman would yield for one minute?
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Let me make one statement from that
Mr. FILNER. I'm sorry.
The CHAIRMAN (continuing). One statement and I'll be glad to.
I always thought the Independent Budget was a consensus of all of those veterans' organizations that participated, at least, a high priority, and you mentioned health care, and indeed it is, but the reason I guess I find some conflict in this your high priority and then not mentioning this over the past 10 years or so.
Mr. MANHAN. Again, your assessment is absolutely accurate, Mr. Chairman. We reached that high priority out of a consensus of 55 different activities. And each activity has one vote; it is not based on membership numbers.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Filner.
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I think all the VSO's and everybody who has signed on to H.R. 836 understands that there is no chance that this legislation would pass or that any of us would support it, if it was an infringement on any of the programs that
Mr. MANHAN. Absolutely.
Mr. FILNER (continuing). Are serving veterans now. We are committed to finding, and we would not ask you to even act on anything, unless there was additional appropriated funds for this purpose. That's our job, as those who advocate for this legislation, to find, but we would never propose one that did not have this additional appropriation over and above what is nowI think we all agreeis not enough to handle the programs now. We would commit to finding new money for this legislation.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Zweiman.
Mr. ZWEIMAN. If I may, Bob, in part, expressed an opinion which is universally, generally, correct, except for the fact that there were a few organizationsmy own, includedthat did not quite agree with the total concept of the unified budget condition, namely, with the degree to which it moratoriumized VA funds and sought to bring in third-party payments to compensate for that differential without having a true examination of its fact. The fact that it would not increase the cost of living, the indexing of the amount, and the fact that those subvention was promised with Medicare that did not exist. So that while we look at it as a budgetary matter, to the degree that it in part sterilized the forward movement of the VA and of the health system of the VA, we could not fully and totally agree with it.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do not feel that it's necessary that we continually trade off one against another, as Congressman Filner indicated, but that this obligation exists. And that, for example, the surplus that exists for taxesthere's not something merely to turn back to those who are capable of working, but you also take account to those who have been put in a very uncomfortable and tenable position as a result of having lost their work while they spent many years fighting for this Government.
The CHAIRMAN. I know this completes our regular agenda, but if you'd remain in seats, please, for about 5 minutes. The gentlelady from California, Ms. McDonald, has asked to make a statement and is recognized for 5 minutes.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank you because I had a testimony this morning at another committee that circumvented my coming in to testify at the time the other Members of Congress was here. But I do not want you to think for one moment that I do not see this as a very important issue in my district, in the 37th Congressional District, in California.
I would like to thank the gentleman, my colleague from California, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Benefits, Mr. Bob Filner, for his diligence and dedication to this issue that affects Filipino-Americans in both of our congressional districts.
And to the Chairman Stump, for allowing me to participate in this morning's hearing on this very important bill, the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act.
The committee could not have chosen a more appropriate time to discuss this piece of legislation. It seems that our Nation is again reflecting on past wars and the veterans of those wars, those brave men and women who fought so that our families and future generations could live under the big tent of democracy. Why, just this week, the Washington Post ran a series highlighting one veteran's attempt to reconcile his feelings about the Vietnam War. Hollywood is releasing a new film which highlights the events surrounding our invasion at Normandy, ''Saving Private Ryan.'' And earlier this week, color footage of World War II was discovered and shown to the American people for the first time, allowing us to put that war into greater perspective and to further realize that 50 years is not so ancient history.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While we are focusing on past wars and those veterans of those wars, we must not forget the soldiers who fought and died on foreign soil so that future sons and daughters of this country might live. As we drive past Arlington Cemetery, we should recognize that each one of those markers represent more than just a white stone placed on a hillside. Those stones represent the young lives that were lost for freedommany of whom never saw a day past 18 or 19. While we remember those brave young men and women, let us not forget that there are similar cemeteries in the Philippines with similar markers. Let us not forget the Filipino soldiers who fought and died for this country, and let us remedy our neglect of those who fought and still live.
Filipino veterans have had to suffer over 50 years without the benefits and service that we provide for all of our other service personnel, and I am committed to ensuring that this injustice is corrected by continuing to fight to have H.R. 836 signed into law. (Applause.)
If the Filipino Equity Act is passed, it will provide disabled veterans' benefits to the surviving Filipino veterans who, as U.S. nationals, were conscripted into the United States Army by President Roosevelt in 1931. President Truman promised these soldiers veterans' benefits. However, the 1946 Rescissions Act denied them their benefits, and today they are forced to depend upon Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and Medicaid as a means of survival.
For these veterans now in their 70's and 80's, H.R. 836 asks for $120 millionone-third of one percent of the annual VA budgetand that's not asking for too muchand would make these Filipino veterans eligible for full U.S. veterans' benefitssomething that they deserve.
Despite 186 co-sponsors of which I am, progress on the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act has been delayed due to budgetary concerns. Despite these concerns, I think it is only fair that our Filipino veterans who fought alongside of our other brave soldiers and contributed to the freedom of this great country be eligible to receive the benefits that they deserve.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I urge you to pass this bill out of this committee onto the floor so that it can be signed by the President. (Applause.)
These veterans deserve no little.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Thank you, Ms. McDonald.
Let me thank all of you for taking the time to take part in this process. I know many of you came a great distance to be here with us today and we appreciate that. We appreciate the patience of those that had to wait until last to testify. And thanks to all of you for your input.
The chair would like to thank Mr. Mike Brinck, our counsel. Actually, Mike has moved on and we prevailed upon him to stay through this issue because he had done most of the work on it. And I want you to know, Mike, we wish you the very best and we appreciate your staying around to help us out so that we didn't have to get someone else. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Filner, you have some closing remarks?
Mr. FILNER. I thank the chairman, and I want to echo the comments of Mr. Zweiman, who earlier said, it's a tribute to Democracy that the chair has held this hearing. And I think it was a very good learning experience for everyone on both sides or all sides of the issue, and I thank you for it.
I thank, as you did, the folks who came from all over the country to be here. Many of those from the Los Angeles area have spent almost a whole year camping out in what was called Equity Village in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles to dramatize their plight. And last year, a dozen of those gentlemen, in fact, felt compelled to chain themselves to the White House gates as a plea to the American people for justice.
I think this Congress must answer these pleas, and I think most of the folks who are here today, committee members, do agree that there is an obligation to right a wrong. Everybody, I think, committed themselves to working together, whether it was the Republicans or the Democrats, the VA, the VSO's, the veterans themselves, and certainly the chairman, to try to find a way in which we can grant the honor and dignity that is necessary within the practical realities. I know I recommit myself to finding that solution, Mr. Chairman. I don't think any of us are going away; we know you're not and we're not, so let's find a way to make something happen for these brave soldiers.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, again, I thank them so much. (Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Filner. (Applause.)
[The statement of Congressman McDermott appears on p. 165.]
[The statement of Mr. Rhea appears on p. 310.]
[The statement of Senator Inouye, with attachments, appears on p. 183.]
The CHAIRMAN. No other business? No other questions?
The meeting stands adjourned. Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 1:11 p.m., the committee adjourned subject to the call of the chair.]