By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Berkley touted her long advocacy on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Las Vegas as she sought their support again for the November elections.
At a gathering Wednesday, Oct. 10, Berkley said she has always been a friend of the community and fought for its interest as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Saying she’s the granddaughter of immigrants, Berkley said she was one of the original sponsors of the Filipino Veterans Act, which sought recognition and benefits for Filipinos who fought alongside the Americans against Japan in the Second World War.
“This bill would cut through the red tape and resistance facing so many Filipino veterans who fought on the side of the United States in World War II, and make it easier for them to finally claim the benefits that they earned as they fought on the bloody battlefields of the Pacific Theater,” Berkley said.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that contained the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision, which allowed aging Filipino veterans to finally begin to collect benefits.
“Let me also mention that is personal to many in this room, and that the issue of who has stood up and fought for the brave Filipino veterans who fought for this country so many years ago and are still waiting to get the (full) recognition and compensation they deserve from our government,”Berkley said.
About a dozen AAPIs attended the meeting, billed as a steering committee get-together among community leaders supporting Berkley in her close contest with Republican Dean Heller for the U.S. Senate seat.
Recently, Heller earned the endorsement of a group of Filipino veterans for his sponsorship of a bill that will allow another opportunity to submit documentation for veterans denied recognition earlier.
The U.S. government holds an official list of Filipino veterans who had served either in the regular U.S. Army as Philippine Scouts or as members of duly recognized guerrilla forces against the Japanese.
Many veterans, including some living in La Vegas, are not on the list, and the Heller bill, if approved, would allow them to pursue their claims.
The Berkley camp charges Heller with opportunism and as a “johnny-come-lately,” who is coming to the aid of the Filipino veterans for political reasons.
Heller voted against the Filipino Veterans Equity Act when it came before the U.S. Congress.
Mike Honda, a Democratic congressman from California, recently praised Berkley for her work on behalf of Filipino veterans.
“Rest assured that this is not simply an election year issue for me, and I will not stop fighting until all Filipino veterans have the recognition and benefits they’ve earned and deserve,” she said.
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