Chairman Moran, Ranking
Member Filner, and other distinguished members of the subcommittee, Vietnam
Veterans of America (VVA) is pleased to appear here today in support of amending
title 38, United States Code which would improve benefits for Filipino veterans
of World War II and their surviving spouses.
Before I begin my testimony I would like to take
this opportunity to wish the Filipino veterans who are here today a Happy
Independence Day. It was 104 years ago yesterday on June 12, 1898, when the
country was finally freed from the bondage of Spanish colonial rule, which
lasted almost four centuries.
Mr. Chairman, VVA strongly believes that those
brave Filipino veterans of World War II who were drafted into service by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt over sixty years ago are entitled to benefits
that they were promised.
Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur,
these Filipino soldiers fought side-by-side with forces from the United States
mainland, defending the American flag in the now-famous battles of Bataan and
Corrigidor. Thousands of Filipino prisoners died, both on the Bataan death
March and in prisoner of war camps. The Philippines endured four long years of
occupation, and after its liberation, the United States used the strategically
located Commonwealth as a base from which to launch the final efforts to win the
With the vital participation of Filipino soldiers
so evident, VVA finds it hard to believe that, soon after the war ended, the
Congress of 1946 unceremoniously deprived many of the Filipino veterans of
benefits and veterans’ status. Prior to enactment of the “Rescission Act” on
February 18, 1946, Filipino veterans were considered veterans by VA law.
Congress has an opportunity at this hearing today
to correct a wrong that was perpetuated on these brave veterans almost sixty
years ago. During World War II, Filipino nationals were called into military
service by Executive Order of the President and fought valiantly under U.S.
command to help achieve peace and freedom in the Pacific. After the war, the
United States made grants to the Philippine government to provide for the needs
of these veterans. In addition, some are eligible for benefits under the United
States veterans system. However, many of these deserving veterans living in the
United States are currently not eligible for such benefits.
VVA recognizes the leadership of this Committee to
ensure that these brave men who served at our side as staunch allies are treated
properly today, correcting a wrong done in 1946. VVA particularly thanks and
commends the Honorable Bob Filner, who has been tenaciously pursuing this issue
for several years. His strong leadership and hard work helped us arrive at this
VVA would also like to take this opportunity to
commend U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi on his two-day
trip this past April to the Philippines. The visit was notable as the first
visit to the Philippines of a U.S. Cabinet official under the administration of
President George W. Bush and as the first-ever official visit of a Veterans
Affairs Secretary to this country, where Filipino and American soldiers fought
shoulder-to-shoulder in World War II.
Noting the U.S. debt to Filipino veterans of World
War II, the Secretary began his official visit with a trip to Corregidor, where
he lauded “the heroic Filipino men and women who sacrificed so much to liberate
their beloved country and who helped the allies emerge victorious from World War
II.” He noted that the 60th anniversary of the infamous Bataan Death March was
recently observed in both countries and praised the Philippines for the
“extraordinarily fruitful contributions” it has been making to the international
war on terrorism.
During his round of meetings in Manila, Secretary
Principi met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and thanked her for the
Philippine government’s support in the global war against terrorism. He also
pledged to work with the U.S. Congress on expanded eligibility for VA healthcare
and increased benefits for Filipino veterans and for the restoration of a grant
in the form of medical equipment for the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC)
in Quezon City. The visiting American official also met with the Administrator
of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, Commodore Artemio Arugay, and with
representatives of veterans’ groups.
The Secretary also laid a wreath at the Manila
American Cemetery and Memorial, met with U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone
and other Embassy Officials and paid a call on the officers and 200 Filipino
employees of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Manila Regional Office and
Outpatient Clinic, where he inspected the operation of the Department’s sole
The Manila Office dispenses each month over $11
million dollars in benefits to eligible veterans and an additional $8 million
monthly in Social Security benefits. More than 5,000 veterans living in the
Philippines receive compensation from this office, and nearly 1,000 more receive
pension benefits. An additional 6,300 dependents of eligible veterans receive
dependency and indemnity compensation, and another 3,300 receive death pensions.
In formal remarks at an April 16 luncheon jointly
hosted by the U.S. Veterans Affairs Office and the Veterans Federation of the
Philippines in Manila, Secretary Principi cited efforts in the United States to
significantly expand the kinds of benefits offered to Filipino veterans of World
War II. He noted that in 1999, the U.S. Congress offered a special Social
Security benefit to Filipino veterans of World War II and allowed eligible
veterans to return to the Philippines and retain 75 percent of that benefit.
In 2000, Commonwealth Army veterans and veterans
of Recognized Guerilla Forces were offered veterans disability compensation at
the full statutory rate if they are permanent legal residents of the United
States. Other veterans became eligible to receive VA health care if they are
permanent U.S. residents receiving disability compensation from the VA
Department. Also in 2000, Commonwealth Army and Recognized Guerrilla veterans
became eligible to be buried in VA national cemeteries if they were permanent
residents of the U.S. at the time of their deaths.
Secretary Principi acknowledged that there are
other VA benefits for which Filipino veterans and their families - in the
Philippines and in the U.S. - would like to be eligible. He stated that the
U.S. Congress has several proposals now under consideration, noting that should
these become law, they will be implemented “promptly, efficiently, and
In 1990 a law was passed awarding citizenship to Filipinos who had
fought on the side of the United States in World War II. As a result of that
legislation, about 26,000 aging veterans were naturalized as US citizens. But
there was nothing in the legislation about veterans benefits. The new citizens,
if they were poor, were eligible only for welfare payments on the same basis as
VVA believes the passage of the U.S.
Rescission Act of 1946, which stated that military work of Filipino soldiers,
scouts and guerrillas was not considered active service in the U.S. armed
forces, was incorrect and this proposed legislation will address some of the
flaws in that law.
Mr. Chairman, the long struggle
staged by Filipino veterans demanding equity in their treatment by the United
States has gone on for more than half a century. VVA
strongly believes because of the aging population of the Filipino veterans there
is an urgent need for this legislation. These aging Filipino soldiers who
fought under the US flag in World War II must be helped now, when it matters
most, before they all die.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes the
testimony of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). I will be more than happy to
answer any question that the committee may have.
VETERANS OF AMERICA
June 13, 2002
The national organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a
non-profit veterans membership organization registered as a 501(c)(19) with the
Internal Revenue Service. VVA is also appropriately registered with the
Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives in
compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
VVA is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract,
other than the routine allocation of office space and associated resources in VA
Regional Offices for outreach and direct services through its Veterans Benefits
Program (Service Representatives). This is also true of the previous two fiscal
For Further Information,
Vietnam Veterans of
Richard F. “Rick” Weidman serves
as Director of Government Relations on the National Staff of Vietnam Veterans of
America. As such, he is the primary spokesperson for VVA in Washington. He
served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam war, including
service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located in I
Corps of Vietnam in 1969.
Mr. Weidman was part of the
staff of VVA from 1979 to 1987, serving variously as Membership Service
Director, Agency Liaison, and Director of Government Relations. He left VVA to
serve in the Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo (NY) as statewide
director of veterans employment & training (State Veterans Programs
Administrator) for the New York State Department of Labor.
He has served as Consultant on
Legislative Affairs to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), and
served at various times on the VA Readadjustment Advisory Committee, the
Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment & Training, the
President’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities - Subcommittee
on Disabled Veterans, Advisory Committee on veterans’ entrepreneurship at the
Small Business Administration, and numerous other advocacy posts in veteran
Mr. Weidman was an instructor
and administrator at Johnson State College (Vermont) in the 1970s, where he was
also active in community and veterans affairs. He attended Colgate University
(B.A., (1967), and did graduate study at the University of Vermont.
He is married and has four children.
E-mail us at email@example.com