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Speier Seeks To Extend Military Benefits To Filipino WWII Vets

SAN MATEO (BCN) -- Rep. Jackie Speier on Thursday introduced a bill in Congress that seeks to make Filipino veterans of World War II eligible for the same benefits available to U.S. veterans.

Speier held a news conference in San Mateo Monday to outline the bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

"It gives full benefits to every Filipino who served in World War II," Speier said, estimating that approximately 50,000 Filipino soldiers survive.

KCBS' Tim Ryan Reports:

Under Speier's proposed legislation, Filipino veterans who are American citizens would receive a lump sum of $15,000, as well as eligibility for health care, education loans, home loans and allowance for burial in a national cemetery. Filipino nationals would receive a lump sum of $9,000, Speier said.

Surviving widows of veterans would be entitled to their husbands' benefits, according to Speier.

About 40 veterans and widows of veterans attended the news conference and enthusiastically applauded the congresswoman as she discussed her legislation and the history of Filipino service with the Allies in World War II.
Speier said that more than 250,000 Filipinos fought under American command in the Far East, half of whom were killed in action.

In 1946, Congress passed the Rescission Act, which stripped Filipinos of the full military benefits they had been promised by the U.S. government, Speier said. She called the legislation "a disgraceful act in our history."

"It is an absolute violation against everything we stand for as a country," she said.

Felino Punsalan, a 93-year-old veteran, thanked the congresswoman for her advocacy.

"You are a God-given gift to us," Punsalan said, fighting back tears. "I am very sorry that up to now I haven't received my $15,000."

At the end of the news conference, the veterans and widows in attendance joined Speier in singing "God Bless America."

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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