Washington, D.C. “We are deeply saddened that an ardent advocate and courageous champion of Filipino World War II veterans has died,” says Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret), chairman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP). “The Filipino American community is immensely grateful to Sen. Daniel Akaka for all his dedicated efforts as a U.S. Senator to restore the honor and dignity of our veterans, who were stripped of their rights and benefits by the 1946 Rescission Act.”
Along with the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, both Senators from Hawaii led the way in the U.S. Congress to fight for legislation that would restore full benefits promised by the U.S. government when Filipino soldiers were recruited in 1941.
Sen. Akaka always maintained that “it’s a moral obligation of this nation to provide for those Filipino veterans who fought under the U.S. flag during World War II.”
In 2007, as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Akaka spearheaded the fight to pass the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act, which would have provided Filipino veterans living outside the U.S. a special pension of $300 a month. Although it passed in the Senate, the bill did not succeed in the House.
That same year, Sen. Akaka introduced legislation to reunite Filipino WWII veterans with their families. Recognizing that these aging veterans were in their 90s, but have to wait as long as 20 years under current policy to reunite with their children, this measure sought to help thousands of veterans in their twilight years. Although the measure was never enacted into law, his bill went on to be one of the few bipartisan pieces of immigration legislation. President Obama, recognizing the bipartisan support for these veterans, later issued an Executive Order allowing eligible Filipino WWII veterans to be reunited with their families through a parole process.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Public Law 111-5) which, among other things, established a one-time benefit payment for eligible Filipino Veterans of World War II. The Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund was created for this purpose and included $198 million for Filipino World War II veterans. Sen. Inouye, who led this initiative, acknowledged Sen. Akaka’s support along with others in both the House and Senate.
In November 2016, Congress passed the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, which granted our veterans the long-awaited recognition for their service and sacrifice. The measure was signed into law by President Obama on December 14, 2016. In hailing its passage, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), lead sponsor of the Senate bill, thanked both Sen. Inouye and Sen. Akaka for their “considerable efforts” in finally achieving a historic measure of justice that had dragged on for so long.
“Sen. Akaka was a true friend of Filipino veterans, who did his best to ensure that America redeem her promise and recognize these heroes for their valor and duty to country,” says Marie Blanco, FilVetREP Vice Chair. “We will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during their time of grief.”
The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, community-based, all-volunteer national initiative whose mission is to obtain national recognition of Filipino and American WW11 soldiers across the United States and the Philippines for their wartime service to the U.S. and the Philippines from July 26, 1941 to December 31, 1946. For more information about Filipino WWII veterans and how to get involved, visit our website at www.filvetrep.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.