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Filipino Seniors in U.S. Looking to Return Home—with Medicare

June 7, 2013 in Blogs

By Sluggo Rigor, New American Media

Immigrants are appealing to Congress for “Medicare portability” so they can receive benefits overseas and save the program money.

While the U.S. Congress deliberates over proposed changes in the nation’s immigration laws, one group of immigrants who became naturalized citizens and who retired and have grown old in this country are seeking a congressional change that is the reverse of what most immigrants want.

Baby boomers, war veterans, widows and retirees originally from the Philippines are hoping welfare assistance and entitlement benefits they have earned would follow them should they decide to return to the land of their birth. Many are World War II veterans who fought under U.S. command and were promised federal compensation only partly provided since then. Advocates believe the United States could save money were it to permit the seniors to return home with their benefits, especially for Medicare.

Understandably, the accessibility of health insurance at this time in their lives is a major consideration as they dream of making their “giant leap” back home. Medicare recipients must be at least 65 or be disabled.

WWII-Era Seniors Assess Their Future

In Seattle’s Filipino-American community, aging WWII veterans and widows meet twice weekly at a senior center where they frequently share meals subsidized through the Older Americans Act.  At these gatherings they assess their hopes and future plans.

Veteran Tomas Villanueva, 90, and his wife Esther, 87, have lived in a subsidized senior housing facility in downtown Seattle for the past 21 years. 

During World War II, Villanueva served in Guam as a Philippine Scout recruit of the U.S. Army. Following the war, he returned to his home province in Southern Luzon where he served as a constabulary officer. He and Esther decided to emigrate to the U.S. in 1991. 

After securing their American citizenship in 1994, the couple filed petitions for some of their six adult children to receive visas enabling them to join their parents in Seattle. The Villanuevas were especially hoping that as they grow old, two of their daughters would provide them a family safety net. 

Eventually, the U.S. government approved four visas for the Villanueva children—but they have …read more


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