America's second-class veterans

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Photos by Rick Rocamora; text by Ryan Macasero

MANILA, Philippines – Veteranos. This was the name given to Filipino veterans who served alongside the United States military during World War II.

While Filipinos were allowed to enlist in the military during the time, while they were residents of the US territory, they were not granted the same benefits or citizenship as their US counterparts. 

They didn't get the same pension, medical benefits, and recognition as heroes of World War II like the US veterans got because of an act passed by US Congress in 1946 called the Rescission Act. The act would strip Filipinos of benefits that they would have been entitled to for serving in the United States Armed Forces.


Many ended up living in poverty, depending on welfare checks from the government to get by, and lived in subsidized low-income housing. 

Every year since 1993, a bill to extend full benefits and recognition to the veteranos. But none have made it to the President's desk. In 2009, US President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, formally recognizing the service of FIlipino World War II veterans. 

As part of the package, veteranos with US citizenship would receive a lump sum of $15,000 and non-US citizens would received a payment of $9,000. 

Celestino Almeda, a veterano, told CNN in 2009, "For a poor man like me, $15,000 is a lot of money. After what we suffered, what we have contributed for the sake of democracy, it's peanuts, it's a drop in the bucket."

The veteranos are dying. Many reaching the last years of their life, but the fight for full equity for the veteranos is still moving too slow.