I’ll open this edition of my weekly offering with a sincere apology to Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

I’ll open this edition of my weekly offering with a sincere apology to Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Last week, I reported Akaka had attached a provision to the stimulus package providing a pension for Filipino veterans.


That information was wrong and I apologize to Sen. Akaka and readers of this column for providing inaccurate information.


The $198 million provision belonged to Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the appropriations committee and a World War II veteran.


That said, I still agree with Akaka’s legislation to provide pensions to Filipino veterans. They should not have had to wait so long to get their due.


Merchant Mariners


The push is on again to provide a monthly pension for World War II Merchant Mariners.


Congressman Bob Filner, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced the legislation in the House Jan. 6 and referred to Filner’s committee for further action.


The Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act, H.R. 23, was submitted by Filner in the 110th Congress as well, but never sent to the president’s desk.


“The Merchants Mariners were dealt a grave injustice at the close of World War II when they were denied veteran status and benefits,” said Filner in a statement. “This bill helps rectify that wrong, and shows the Merchant Mariners that their bravery is still appreciated. Throughout World War II the merchant mariners played an essential role while suffering higher casualty rates than any other armed branch of service.


“Merchant Mariners courageously transported goods, materials, and personnel to various theaters of war. I am truly grateful for the services that these individuals provided during World War II, and I will fight to have this bill passed into law. Our entire nation needs to give them the thanks they deserve.”


If passed in Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, the bill would provide a monthly stipend of $1,000 to qualifying Merchant Mariners.


Who qualifies? I’ll lay it out for you. Mariners must have served between Dec. 7, 1941 and Dec. 31, 1946. This also applies to members of the Army and Naval Transport services. All must have served as a crewmember of a ship operating in U.S. waters by War Shipping Administration or the Office of Defense Transportation and under contract to, or the property of, the United States.


Individuals must apply for the stipend before Oct. 31 and not have been in receipt of benefits under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944.


Be prepared, however. Mariner and transport service veterans must be able to document their service aboard ship, so I’d suggest getting your ducks in line before applying.


The skeptic in me says the bill may not stand a chance, but my inner optimist says it’s high time Congress recognized these veterans.


The estimated cost of the program through fiscal 2012 is approximately $365 million – chump change when you consider the cost of bailing out the economy, combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, Detroit’s auto industry and the Troubled Asset Relief Program for the banking industry. I could go on, but I’m out of Prozac.


Thus far, 14 members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors: Reps. Gary Ackerman, Timothy Bishop, and Peter King of New York; Allen Boyd, Alcee Hastings, Suzanne Kosmas and Robert Wexler of Florida; Jim Costa and Jerry McNerny of California; Dan Burton, Indiana; Michael Doyle, Pennsylvania; Frank LoBionda, New Jersey; Michael Michaud, Maine; and Zach Wamp of Tennessee.


Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Burlington (Mass.) Union and a retired, disabled veteran. He may be reached at 978-371-5775, or by e-mail at bcoulter@cnc.com.