U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama supports a bill that would award pension benefits to Filipinos who fought under the U.S. flag during World War II when their country was a U.S. colony.
Obama issued a statement this week urging his colleagues in Senate to provide the veterans with the recognition he says they deserve.
"Approximately 250,000 Filipino troops joined American forces to fight in World War II, but too many of these heroes are still being denied benefits," said the statement, which was dated Monday and appeared on his campaign Web site.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee already has passed a broad bill that includes the benefit measure. The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.
The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, opposes the Filipino veterans measure. He told senators earlier this month that the government should instead spend its resources on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the veteran affairs committee, backs the Filipino veterans bill. Akaka is also a U.S. veteran of World War II.
The veterans joined units under U.S. command at a time when U.S. law mandated that all Philippine citizens owe allegiance to the United States. The law also stipulated U.S. control over Philippine national defense and foreign affairs.
After the war, however, Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, stripping Filipino veterans of their status as U.S. veterans. The move denied Filipinos the same benefits available to other veterans of U.S. military service.
Filipino-American veterans, most now in their 80s, have campaigned for decades to win the benefits they were promised. They have had some victories, including when Congress passed a bill allowing thousands to immigrate and become U.S. citizens. Burial rights in national cemeteries came a decade later.
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed a bill making Filipino-American veterans in the United States eligible for the same federal health care other American veterans receive.
The latest measure seeks to give pension benefits to Filipino veterans living in the Philippines.
Akaka's office said it would award US$3,600 (euro2,390) per year to each individual veteran, or US$4,500 (euro2,990) per year to each married veteran.
The provision would cost an estimated US$24 million (euro16 million) in its first year and less each year after that.
Akaka told the Senate earlier this month some 18,000 Filipino World War II veterans survive today and that only a few would remain in another decade.