This vote was on an amendment by Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, that would make optional a $67 million transfer from a Veterans Affairs construction account to the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. The amendment was offered to a bill that would provide supplemental appropriations in fiscal 2010, including extra money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as money for veterans, areas affected by natural disasters, and some social policy funding such as for teachers and firefighters
Inouye said in May 2010, the Veterans Affairs Department sent him a letter stating that they had underestimated the number of Filipino veterans, especially those who had since become U.S. citizens, who would be eligible for health care through the VA system. The shortfall is estimated to be $67 million.
“The provision included in this supplemental does not cost a dime. It simply allows any savings, currently unobligated and not assigned to any ongoing project, which the VA realizes is the result of a favorable contract environment, to be transferred to the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund and/or retained for authorized major medical facility projects of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It does not mandate this transfer. It simply gives the VA the flexibility should the Department want to transfer the funds for these purposes,” Inouye said
“Just a reminder: In July of 1941 President Roosevelt invited the Filipinos to volunteer and join the American forces, and 470,000 volunteered. In March of 1942 this Congress passed a law stating that Filipinos who volunteered may, after the war, apply for citizenship and receive all the benefits of American citizenship. In March of 1946 this Congress reneged and repealed that law. We must fulfill this commitment the country made to the Filipino veterans who fought so bravely under our command because to deny the VA authority to transfer to this account would renege on our commitment and would send a dangerous signal that the Senate may not honor past and future commitments to veterans,” Inouye said.
Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., said he sent his staff to the Roosevelt Library to do research and could find no evidence of such a promise made.
“What we are talking about—and this is not the purpose of this discussion—is a continuation, an addition to the Filipino equity fund. Two years ago we passed legislation creating that fund. We appropriated $198 million, and we allowed 1 year from the enactment for any Filipino who wanted to claim to, in fact, put in an application. That deadline was February 16. At the end of December, my staff talked to the VA, and they had obligated under $100 million,” Burr said. He later offered his own amendment to strike the language (see vote 175).
By a vote of 60-35, the amendment was adopted. All but one Democrat present voted for the amendment. All but four Republicans present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the amendment went forward with language that would allow the Veterans Affairs department to transfer up to $67 million in unspent construction funding to the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.