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Home Sections Filipino-Veterans' Lobby Fil-Am Solon Says Fight for “Full Benefits” for Filvets Not Over
Fil-Am Solon Says Fight for “Full Benefits” for Filvets Not Over PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Filipino-Veterans' Lobby
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Thursday, 10 September 2009 07:38

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(Journal Group Link International)

 

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – Although he did not sign up on The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the only second-generation Filipino-American congressman in the United States Congress vowed to continue the fight for “full benefits” of the Filipino World War II veterans.

 

The law was signed by President Barack Obama last February to grant $15,000 lump-sum pay each to Filipino veterans, who are U.S. citizens, and $9,000 one-time pay each to Filipino veterans, who are not U.S. citizens.

 

It appropriated $198-million for these benefits.

 

But Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii-D), chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, who introduced the insertion of the Filipino-veterans benefit into the Stimulus Bill, had later admitted that the $198-M appropriation was a “token” amount.

 

Rep. Steve Austria (R-7th) of Ohio believes the Filipino veterans deserve better.

 

In a video interview with this reporter shortly after delivering his speech Saturday (Sep. 5) at the 4th three-day 4th Regional Conference of the National Federation of Filipino-American Association (NaFFAA) for the Midwest Region (R3) at the Wyndham O’Hare Hotel in suburban Rosemont, Illinois, Mr. Austria said, when the Filipino veterans bill was inserted in the Stimulus bill or The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it was a rider or an amendment to a comprehensive bill that no one from the Republican would sign up.

 

Admitting that he did not sign the Stimulus Bill, although his late father, Dr. Clement Austria, was a Filipino guerilla during World War II, Mr. Austria said “no one talked to me about” inclusion of the Filipino-veterans benefits in the Stimulus Bill.

 

Mr. Austria told this reporter, “The Filipino-veterans bill was an amendment bill that was put on the Stimulus bill, a spending bill, that they (Democrats) knew that ‘we, Republicans, in my side of the aisle, could not support.’

 

“It was a major infusion expansion of the government (funds) to help small businesses. It was amended. And no one talked to me about it when they were amending it on.”

 

He added, “I am still very supportive of our own veterans. I want to help them get full benefits. And I will continue to work in that direction. I will continue to do that. Because that was amended on, the bill came out from the House.  And it was amended in the Senate side. And it came back with (only) one member of Congress having the opportunity to read that before it came to a vote.

 

“If they put it on a different bill, I would. But they put it in a major $748-billion spending bill. They knew I couldn’t vote.”

 

Mr. Austria also supports suggestions that President Obama write a letter of apology to each of the Filipino veteran to compliment the token benefits granted to the veterans, “who are our partners” during World War II.

 

In 1988, the first President George H. W. Bush signed a letter of apology to each of the 82,210 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants, who received the token $20,000 each after they were interned during World War II in various concentration camps around the U.S. to prevent them from supporting their homeland during the war.


Congressman Austria's Tribute
 

D uring his speech, Mr. Austria, 50, paid tribute to the officers and members of NaFFAA for helping their fellow Filipino Americans. Dr. Evelyn D. Natividad, Illinois NaFFAA chair, welcomed the delegates.

 

Among the guests were Consul General Blesila Cabrera, Greg B. Macabenta, NaFFAA national chair; Ed Navarra, NaFFAA Region 3 chair, and Rozita Lee, NaFFAA national vice chair.

 

Mr. Austria challenged Filipinos and Filipino Americans to get involved in political processes and civic works. He said, “It’s time, panahon na! Members (of NaFFAA) should work with me. Long standing relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines (should be preserved); they should ask questions, (and) leave (the conference) with one united voice.”

 

Mr. Macabenta told his fellow officers and members of the 12-year old umbrella Filipino ethnic organization to be active in club activities, adding, “We have much work to do.”

 

Mr. Navarra hoped that the conference could be the place where they could “share ideas, our meeting together presents a gold opportunity for us to think about our importance, and how we may turn this awareness towards empowering ourselves and our Filipino American community as a whole.”

 

Princess Emraida Kiram, NaFFAA Region 3 vice chair, commented that the conference theme, “Forging the New Filipino-American Agenda in the Midwest,” was premature, asking “how can we have a new agenda when we still don’t have an old agenda?”

 

A NaFFAA regional officer, Ernesto Gange, asked Mr. Austria to support re-enlistment of Filipinos in the U.S. military. Mr. Gange is also pushing for the right of the Amerasian children to immigrate to America. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net) # # #

 

 



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Last Updated on Thursday, 10 September 2009 07:42
 

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