Menendez Stands Up For Filipino WWII Veterans

Menendez Stands Up For Filipino WWII Veterans

NJ Senator speaks passionately in favor of successful amendment to give heroes what the veterans benefits they deserve

Washington - Today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spoke passionately in favor of a successful bill that will give Filipino veterans of World War II the veterans benefits they deserve. These veterans were among of the thousands who answered U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's call to the people of the Philippines to fight alongside out troops in 1941.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act contains a number of important measures to provide for our Filipino veterans, but was subject to a fiercely-contested amendment that would have stripped out benefits for Filipino veterans. The amendment was defeated.

The legislation expands eligibility for traumatic injury insurance, provides job training and helps disabled veterans make their homes more accessible. It also includes supplemental benefits for the ever-increasing funeral costs of our nation's heroes.

Senator Menendez is a co-sponsor of the legislation to give benefits to Filipino veterans. The audio of his speech on the Senate floor is available here:

Text of his remarks are below:

Thank you Senator Akaka, I ask unanimous consent that my statement be included in the record.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act that we are debating contains a number of important measures to provide for our veterans.

It would expand eligibility for traumatic injury insurance, provide job training, help disabled veterans make their homes more accessible. And that's all worthy.

But there's also another issue.

In 1941, President Roosevelt called on the people of the Philippines to fight for their freedom and ours, and thousands of brave Filipinos answered the call.

They carried out operations to liberate their homeland, and joined us in support of our efforts in the Pacific Theater. They fought and died at Corregidor. They were with us on the beaches at Bataan, and in the death marches.

They were there when General McArthur promised he would return, they fought using guerilla tactics to tie down the Japanese, and they fought under General McArthur when we he came back and said, "I have returned."

Throughout the war, Filipino soldiers fought under the American flag, serving with valor, strength, and dignity.

President Roosevelt guaranteed those brave soldiers that the United States would come to their aid in times of peace just as they had come to our aid during times of war.

He guaranteed them equal veterans' benefits-a fair promise, considering their service, and considering the law of the land, as they were full members of the United States military.

But in 1946, in one of the most misguided legislative actions of the time, Congress took away the benefits that the President of the United States had promised them-benefits they had rightfully earned.

Of the approximately 250,000 Filipino veterans who fought for us in America, only about 18,000 are still alive today. Many of them are searching for ways to pay for health care, and are struggling in ways they never should.

These veterans have more yesterdays than tomorrows. They are all well into their 80s. In terms of our budget, what this bill would cost over the course of ten years, we're spending in Iraq every 18 hours.

So those who say it costs too much are the same voices who said that it would cost too much to do what Democrats did under the leadership of Senator Akaka, when for the first time we fully funded the veterans independent budget.

When we bring this bill to a vote, we'll be answering a very simple but powerful question: Does our nation keep its promises?

We need to right an injustice of the past and show our allies for future purposes as well; when we tell people join us in our fight against terrorism, join us in our fight against other challeneges in the world that America honors its obligation to those who fight for the values and our principles that we collectively share. This is a critical time to send a message to friends of freedom across the world: we remember our allies and we pay our debts.

Our distinguished colleagues in the Senate who have served during World War II have said, this is not simply a question of budget. This is a question of honor.

These individuals of honor put their lives on the line for our nation, and now the honor of our nation is on the line.

Let us show them just a fraction of the bravery they did, and vote to restore them what they were promised, what was the law and what they rightfully earned.

Now, like lawyers there are some who are picking on points here and there to build a case against these benefits, in my mind is a case made of sand. Let us vote to bring an honorable ending to this story and in however small a way, let us pledge now to give them dignity in the twilight of their life. I really urge my colleagues to support Senator Akaka's bill as it is, and be able to keep our word in the world. And if I have any time remaining I yield it back to Senator Akaka.