Being a soldier takes a significant toll on both the mind and the body. Despite the hardship and stress associated with active deployment, spending time as a prisoner of war (POW) is perhaps the most negatively impactful situation a soldier can find themselves in.
If you or a loved one spent time as a former POW, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers special disability compensation. Below is a comprehensive guide that offers to help former POWs secure the benefits they deserve.
Qualifying for disability compensation as a POW
Multiple factors qualify a former POW for special disability compensation. Applicants must meet three key conditions in order to receive their benefits:
- The applicant must have been captured or imprisoned during the course of their service or active duty.
- The applicant must have a qualifying condition as a direct result of their service and their capture. This condition involves the physical and mental toll that internment takes on an individual, including its long-term effects.
- The applicant must be at least 10% disabled, as determined by a doctor, as a result of their condition.
Active duty involving imprisonment can create a wide range of physical and mental ailments that impact a veteran’s day-to-day life, ability to work, and overall health. Those ailments are divided into two categories:
- Conditions related to general POW imprisonment
- Conditions related to imprisonment exceeding 30 days
All POWs, regardless of time spent as a prisoner, are eligible for disability compensation if they experience any of the following conditions:
- Neuro-psychiatric illness, including anxiety, depressive disorders, psychosis, and PTSD
- Frostbite and other cold temperature-related injuries
- Traumatic arthritis
- Heart disease
Veterans who spent more than 30 days as a POW qualify for benefits if they experience any of the following health issues:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Digestive system disorders
It should be noted that the VA regularly changes qualifying disorders. For example, prior to 2008, all former POWs with osteoporosis qualified for benefits as long as they also had signs and symptoms of PTSD. Starting in 2009, however, osteoporosis only served as a qualifier if the former POW was imprisoned for 30 days or more, but the PTSD requirement was removed.
Long-term conditions resulting from imprisonment can manifest in mental and physical impairments that make daily tasks and responsibilities challenging. As with any type of VA benefit, it is essential to gather as much knowledge as possible regarding qualifying conditions to successfully apply and receive compensation.