Magandang balita sa mga magigiting na Beterano na nakipaglaban sa mga manlulupig na sakang.
Veterans pension bill finally up for voting
WASHINGTON D.C. — It’s looking good for non-service (no combat-related injury or ailment) Filipino World War II veterans in the U.S. and the Philippines in getting the pension legislation approved this year. The floor vote in the Senate “will be on May 7 or 8 for the compromise bill,” Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Willy C. Gaa said April 16 Wednesday. A Senate vote will speed up approval in the 110th Congress.
“We keep on being optimistic,” he said in a phone interview. “It looks like it will pass this year, but we’re not sure about the figure.”
Gaa said, “I met briefly with Akaka yesterday and he told me, we’re looking at next week.” Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D, HI) is the pension amendment sponsor and chairman of the committee on veterans affairs. “He told me, we’re looking at next week.”
But the embassy got a call the following day that the date for the floor vote on S. 1315, The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act, had been moved to early next month. Congress is rushing several major bills, eager to shorten the session so lawmakers can concentrate on campaigning for reelection on Nov. 4.
Gaa also stressed an obstacle had been removed recently, noting President Gloria Arroyo, who is “fully committed to the pension bill,” has enacted a bill filed by Senator Dick Gordon after meeting with legislators here. Gordon’s bill amended R.A. 6498, which had stipulated that Philippine benefits would be stopped if the U.S. government grants similar benefits. Congresswoman Carissa O. Coscolluela sponsored the House version of the bill. The Filipino veterans receive 5,000 a month from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).
“Everything is falling into place,” Bing Cardenas Branigin said Tuesday. “Senator Akaka would not schedule a floor vote if he wasn’t confident that the votes are there” to insure the bill’s passage. Ms. Branigin, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) community outreach and media officer, said the pressure is on advocates to lock in the support of lawmakers, and to keep adding Republican supporters.
She is joining Rozita Lee, vice chair of NaFFAA based here, on a Thursday breakfast with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nevada). Ms. Lee’s late husband was Reid’s physician. Reid fully supports the bill, and will meet with them to discuss getting the support of Sen. John Ensign (R, Nevada), and persuading more Republicans to go on board. Gaa also said a Philippine congressional delegation, which arrived April 12 here, helps “demonstrate the commitment of the Philippine government.”
A source said the Philippines has signed a lobbying contract for former Congressman Benjamin Gilman of New York, who is a Republican, adding Gilman would get $250,000 over a six-month period.
Gilman, co-author of approved Filipino veterans bills during his term, had received a one-time fee of $10,000, split by the community and the government, to enlist Republicans to vote for the pension legislation. Gaa did not mention any specifics, but said there has been no go-signal yet to sign up Gilman.
A compromise “will probably take place at the floor vote,” said Gaa. There has been Republican resistance over pension for Philippine-based veterans. Senator Daniel K. Akaka’s legislation proposes $300 monthly. Republicans agree the Philippine-based veterans deserve to get benefits, but opt for $100. There is no opposition for the proposed $911 pension for non-service veterans living in the U.S. For nearly two decades, the pension bill languished in committees. But things moved quickly when Democrats retook power in Congress. It paved the way for the bill’s authors–Senator Akaka and Congressman Bob Filner of California –to become chairmen of the committee on veterans’ affairs.
Over the years, lobbying has been done by NaFFAA, the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans here, and last year, the new-ly formed National Movement for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE). Presidential commitment from both countries also helps. President George W. Bush has assured Arroyo he would sign the bill “when it reaches me desk.”