WASHINGTON, DC – Late yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a provision authored by Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) that expands the list of documents accepted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prove service and to grant honorary veterans status to a forgotten segment of the World War II Merchant Marine, the Coastwise Merchant Seamen. H.R. 1288, the World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act, was passed by a vote of 404-1 as part of H. R. 2189, a bill to improve the processing of disability claims by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Butterfield said, “This is a special moment. For too long, the brave men and women who served their country during World War II in the Merchant Marine have gone unrecognized for their service. We have taken another step in an effort to do the right thing and honor these mariners while they are still with us.”
In March, Butterfield introduced H.R. 1288 to make deserving World War II U.S. Merchant Mariners eligible for honorary veterans’ status and certain veterans’ benefits, and has championed the effort to recognize these mariners for the past three Congresses.
H.R. 2189, with the Merchant Mariner provisions, now heads to the U.S. Senate where it will have to be passed and then signed by the President before it becomes law. On Wednesday, October 30, 2013, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a legislative hearing on the companion bill to Butterfield’s legislation, S. 1361.
“Through no fault of their own, these selfless individuals have been unable to prove their service because the documents needed to prove service have either not survived over time or never existed at all. Now is the time to stand-up for these great Americans and give them the recognition they rightly deserve.”