U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, elatedly applauded his colleagues in the Senate for passing S. 1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 by a vote of 96 to 1. Prior to voting on final passage of the bill, the Senate debated an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56 to 41, with Akaka leading the charge for the Filipino veterans' pension.
"The Filipino veterans of World War II fought bravely under U.S. military command, helping us win the war only to lose their veteran status by an Act of Congress. I commend my colleagues for supporting those veterans who stood with us," said Akaka.
Akaka continued, "I am also very pleased that the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 can finally move forward. This bill makes needed improvements to veterans' benefits by expanding and increasing support for veterans, their families, and their survivors. I urge my colleagues in the House to act swiftly on this much needed bill."
This comprehensive, budget-neutral omnibus veterans' benefits bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs last June and reported to the full Senate last August.
The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would provide a veterans' pension to Filipino veterans of World War II residing in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Under the proposed bill, veterans residing in the Philippines would receive a smaller pension than those residing in the U.S., to account for differences in cost-of-living in the two countries.
The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 also includes a multitude of improvements to veterans' benefits, including provisions to:
Establish a new program of insurance for service-connected disabled veterans;
Expand eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance;
Increase the maximum amount of Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance that a service-connected disabled veteran may purchase;
Provide individuals with severe burn injuries specially adapted housing benefits; and
Extend for two years the monthly educational assistance allowance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.