Filipino veterans who served with the U.S. military in World War II are a step closer to receiving the health and pension benefits they say they were promised 60 years ago.

U.S. House Resolution No. 2357, a bill backed by President Bush, would grant health-care benefits to certain Filipino veterans of World War II who are legally residing in the United States.

On June 27, Albert del Rosario, the Philippine ambassador to the United States, announced the bill’s approval by the House Veterans’ Affairs Health subcommittee. The bill now moves to the full Veterans Affairs’ Committee, and then a House vote.

The estimated annual budget for Filipino veterans under HR 2537 is $16.3 million, according to a published statement from the Washington-based American Coalition for Filipino Veterans Inc.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all organized military units in the Philippines, then a U.S. territory, into military service. The surviving Filipino World War II veterans, who number about 8,000, say they were promised citizenship and benefits.

Mary Fenton, 31, said she’s happy for those who may finally have access to benefits, but that doesn’t help her grandfather very much.

The wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Dwayne Fenton, a member of the USS Patriot at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, said her grandfather, Staff Sgt. Francisco T. Mendoza, a Filipino Ranger from Roxas Isabella in the Philippines, fought in the war with the U.S. military.

Fenton said her grandfather died in 1977, when she was in the first grade. She’s not clear on the details of his service but remembers her grandmother’s frustration at making “trip after trip” to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, hoping to collect health-care support for her ailing husband and benefits for her family after he died.

“This is very good news. It looks like the U.S. is finally going to do what was promised way back all those years ago,” Fenton said. “I just wish they had done so in the beginning, because it would have saved my grandmother from some hard times.”

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