Senators push for increase in disability pension of disabled veterans

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senators on Tuesday, November 22 called for an increase in the disability pension of disabled veterans which has remained stagnant for almost three decades already.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said there is an urgent need to upgrade the 28-year old disability pension of disabled veterans, noting that the P1,000 to P1,700 monthly pension for military veterans and their dependents, under Republic Act No. 6948, has never been adjusted.

“Needless to say, the amount is already grossly inadequate to provide for their needs, considering the high cost of living today and the state of health they are in. By all metrics, the value of P1,000 in 1994 is undoubtedly much, much lower in 2022, with almost 250% price increase since,” Estrada said during his sponsorship speech of Senate Bill No. 1480.

Ang halaga ng isang libo noon ay P287 na lamang ngayon. Hindi na po sapat ang benepisyong tinatanggap ng ating mga beterano, lalo na sa harap ng pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin at pangunahing pangangailangan (The value of a thousand then is only P287 now. The benefits received by our veterans are no longer enough, especially in the face of the increase in the price of goods and basic necessities),” the senator pointed out.

Estrada, who chairs the Senate Committees on National Defense and Security, Peace and Reconciliation, noted that the existing law, which incidentally was co-authored and sponsored by his father, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada during the 8th Congress, was last adjusted in 1994.

“In their twilight years, they are still fighting, albeit a different battle altogether. It is a simple gesture of gratitude and appreciation for the invaluable service, loyalty, and gallantry of our military veterans, to whom we owe the freedom, democracy, and peace we all enjoy today,” Estrada said.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, echoed Estrada’s call.

“With the present proposal being sponsored by Senator Estrada, we seek to increase by at least 450 percent the disability pension to range from P4,500 to P10,000 a month, and double to P1,000 the benefit given for the veteran’s spouse and for each of their minor children,” Angara said also in his co-sponsorship speech for Senate Bill No. 1480.

Citing data from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), Angara noted that up to 7,957 people are currently receiving disability pension.

Of this figure, 4,386 are veterans, 2,776 their spouses, and 795 are minors.

“We know, Mr. President, that the country is facing a crisis right now when it comes to funding,” Angara said.

“But, based on data from the PVAO as of October 19, 2022, the fiscal impact of the bill will only reach P442.0M in 2023; P434.1M in 2024; P402.3M by 2025; P384.6M in 2026; and P366.8M in 2027,” he pointed out.

Thus, Angara said, there is a necessity to increase the amount of pension that the country’s veterans’ currently receive.

“Mr. President, there is probably no greater goal that can be devoted to time and effort than to protect and defend the security of the entire country. That’s the role played by our veterans. So during times when they get sick, injured, or disabled while in office, they should not be allowed to be like ‘stones thrown in the wasteland’,” he said.

“It is only appropriate that the state provide them with sufficient aid and support so that they can continue to support themselves and their loved ones, and keep their house afloat. So let’s pass this proposal,” Angara pushed.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, a former top law enforcer, said that with the passage of this measure, “we can ensure that the pension that we have granted to our veterans may actually be utilized for their everyday needs.”

“For the record, the insufficiency of the veteran’s pension benefits have already been recognized when the monthly old-age pension of senior veterans have been increased during the time of President Duterte from P5,000 to P20,000.00,” Dela Rosa said, also in his co-sponsorship speech on the bill.

“Thus, it is but right for this august chamber to, likewise, support this proposed measure given that the current disability pension merely ranges from P1,000 to P1,700. While these amounts may seem more than sufficient back when the law was passed, its value today merely equates to more or less a pensioner’s food for a week or worse, less than half of a vehicle’s gas tank,” he stressed.