Over 500,000 Americans since the American Revolution have been captured and interned as a prisoner of war (POW). If you are a former POW, you may wonder what benefits you are eligible for from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Former POWs may qualify for basic Veteran benefits, including pension, education resources, home loans, and burial services, as well as programs and benefits specifically aimed at former POWs.
Similar to other Veterans with a service-connected disability, former POWs are eligible for compensation for these disabilities. Certain conditions cover time spent in captivity. Regardless of the amount of time held in captivity, specific diagnoses are presumed to be service-connected. Some of these diagnoses are traumatic arthritis, PTSD, stroke, and heart disease. For former POWs who were in captivity for more than 30 days, there are additional diagnoses presumed to be service-connected. These include nutritional deficiencies, digestive disorders, and peripheral neuropathy.
Benefits for dependents and survivors of former POWs
A surviving spouse, dependent children, and parents of a former POW who is either deceased or has a service-connected disability may also be eligible for certain benefits. These include similar benefits granted to Veteran dependents and survivors, including pension and health care benefits. In specific cases, additional benefits may be awarded, including education benefits and burial services.
VA health care
Former POWs with service-connected disabilities are eligible for priority health care services through the VA. These services may include inpatient or outpatient services and treatment in a nursing home if necessary. It also covers mental health services and various wellness programs, such as help with quitting smoking. Former POWs that do not have any service-connected disabilities are still eligible for the same benefits and have priority second only to Veterans with service-connected disabilities.
POW Veterans outreach coordinators
Every VA regional office has an appointed POW outreach coordinator who serves as a direct point of contact for former POWs. The coordinator can help you determine and apply for the benefits you are eligible for. They can refer you to other organizations and provide additional resources you may need or serve as a point of contact for survivors or dependents of former POWs.
All Veterans are entitled to benefits provided by the VA. Former POWs are entitled to similar benefits with some additional considerations connected to their time in captivity. Understanding your benefits is an important step to help assist you and your family during your recovery.