|134. Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill Providing Benefits to Philippine Army Veterans|
July 1, 1947 |
My dear Mr.___________:
I am transmitting a draft of a bill "To provide a more satisfactory program of benefits relating to active service in the armed forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines during World War II, and for other purposes." I request the early consideration of this measure by the Congress.
The proposed legislation would enlarge veterans' benefits available to Philippine Army veterans who were called and ordered into the service of the armed forces of the United States pursuant to the military order of the President dated July 26, 1941. Under the provisions of the First Supplemental Surplus Appropriations Rescission Act, 1946, all veterans' benefits were taken from this group except those providing compensation for service-connected disabilities or death (which are paid on the basis of one Philippine peso for each dollar authorized) and benefits of the National Service Life Insurance Act of 1940, as amended, under contracts entered into prior to February 18, 1946.
The draft submitted would revise the compensation benefits on a practicable basis and would restore the following classes of benefits which were taken away by the Rescission Act: (1) educational, (2) hospitalization for service-connected disability, and (3) burial and funeral allowance. Existing benefits under the National Service Life Insurance Act would not be altered except to extend for two years the time within which eligible persons may apply for gratuitous insurance benefits after the death of a veteran who was deemed to have been issued such insurance under the law. This extension would not be limited to cases involving Philippine Army veterans, but would be of general applicability. However, it is designed primarily to afford relief to the dependents of Philippine Army veterans who were unable to make the necessary applications for benefits by reason of the extended occupation of the Philippines by the enemy. The proposal also contains general administrative and penal provisions which are deemed necessary to carry out its provisions. Further details of the proposed legislation are set forth in the enclosed section by section analysis.
You will recall that upon approving the Rescission Act I took exception to that portion of the Act which limited veterans' benefits available to Philippine Army veterans. I stated, among other thing, that enactment of that legislation did not release the United States from its moral obligation to provide for the heroic Philippine Army veterans who sacrificed so much for the common cause during the war. Practical difficulties in administering benefits to such veterans were recognized and, accordingly, I referred the matter to the Secretary of War, the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, and the United States High Commissioner to the Philippines to prepare for me a plan to meet these difficulties.
On May 18, 1946, I submitted to the Congress the plan evolved by these officials.1 In my communication I stated in part:
1 See 1946 volume, this series, p. 272.
"The record of the Philippine soldiers for bravery and loyalty is second to none. Their assignments were as bloody and difficult as any in which our American soldiers engaged. Under desperate circumstances they acquitted themselves nobly.
"There can be no question that the Philippine veteran is entitled to benefits bearing a reasonable relation to those received by the American veteran, with whom he fought side by side. From a practical point of view, however, it must be acknowledged that certain benefits granted by the 'G.I. Bill of Rights' cannot be applied in the case of the Philippine veterans. * * * [Enactment of the proposed legislation] will clearly indicate to the Filipinos that it is the purpose of the United States Government to do justice to their veterans. More important, it will provide the help so direly needed by many Filipinos who served our cause with unwavering devotion in the face of bitter hardship and wanton cruelty."
Those statements are equally applicable at this time.
The legislation proposed last year was passed by the Senate but failed of enactment in the closing days of the Seventy-ninth Congress.
This year I requested an Interdepartmental Committee, consisting of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, and the United States Ambassador to the Philippines, to reconsider the problem and submit its recommendations. After extended study the Committee recommended enactment of the enclosed draft of a bill and the legislation which is pending before the Congress to restore the benefits of the Missing Persons Act to Philippine Army veterans. In its latest report, with which was submitted the enclosed draft of a bill, the Committee stated:
"It is the view of the Committee that, if the proposal submitted with this report and the mentioned legislation pending before the Congress are enacted into law, the discrimination against Philippine Army veterans brought about by the First Supplemental Surplus Appropriation Rescission Act, 1946, will, so far as possible, be removed and that substantial justice will have been done such veterans."
I concur in these views of the Committee and, accordingly, urge upon the Congress the early enactment of the proposals in question.
Very sincerely yours,
HARRY S. TRUMAN
NOTE: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Arthur H. Vandenberg, President pro tempore of the Senate, and to the Honorable Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On July 25, 1947, the President signed a bill providing for the extension of benefits of the Missing Persons Act to certain members of the military forces of the Philippines (61 Stat. 455).
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.