US senator calls for renewal benefits program for Filvets

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid its looming expiration, United States Senator Mazie K. Hirono sought the renewal of a provision under “Keeping Our Commitment to Overseas Veterans Act” which extends the country’s authority to operate the Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office in Manila, Philippines.

Hirono introduced the bill on Wednesday, July 16, pointing out that it is “imperative” for Congress to renew it, citing its thousands of beneficiaries. The day coincides with the 76th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s order to incorporate the Philippine Army into the U.S. forces in 1941.

“Hawaii’s deep cultural and family ties to the Philippines extend to the sizable community of veterans and their dependents who rely on the Manila VA to receive their pensions and health care,” Hirono was quoted saying in a news release.

According to the VA, its regional office in Manila supports around 13,000 beneficiaries through over $19 million per month in disability compensation or pensions.

The office also serves about 6,000 enrolled patients through its outpatient clinic.

“We must keep our commitment to these veterans and all veterans who rely on the Manila VA. It is imperative for Congress to promptly renew authority for this facility to avoid any impact to the hard-earned critical services these veterans deserve,” the senator added.

If not extended, the bill will expire on September 30, 2017.

Edmund Aczon, chairman of the board of directors of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, Hawaii, thanked the senator for her “steadfast efforts to support [the] Filipino World War II Veterans,” including those who are currently residing the Philippines.

“We are grateful to Senator Hirono for introducing this bill to reauthorize the Manila VA Regional Office and Outpatient Clinic to ensure stability for the tens of thousands of veterans and their families who receive VA disability compensation, pensions or healthcare which will give peace of mind to their families in Hawaii,” Aczon added.

Retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, also expressed gratitude to the senator for her leadership in introducing legislation to reauthorize the Manila VA.

Taguba said the VA’s longtime presence in the Philippines is a reflection of Washington’s duty to provide the benefits and services the veterans have earned during World War II.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Director Carlos Fuentes, on the other hand, described the Manila VA as not only a testament to Washington’s commitment but also serves as “a reminder of the sacrifices of those veterans in the Philippines who answered President Roosevelt’s call to service during World War II 76 years ago.”

“The VFW thanks Senator Hirono for her leadership in introducing this bill to ensure veterans in the Philippines continue to have access to their earned health care and services,” Fuentes added. (Dana Sioson/AJPress) 



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