Benefits for POWs

Find out more about who may be classified as a former Prisoner of War (POW), what benefits are available and how to apply for those benefits.

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Who Are Former Prisoners of War?

Since World War I, more than 142,000 Americans, including 85 women, have been captured and interned as POWs. Not included in this figure are nearly 93,000 Americans who were lost or never recovered.

Only one fifth of America’s former POWs since World War I are still living (about 22,641). More than 90% of living former POWs were captured and interned during World War II. About 15,367 former POWs are in receipt of compensation for service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses.

In 1981, Congress passed Public Law 97-37 entitled “Former Prisoners of War Benefit Act.” This law accomplished several things. It established an Advisory Committee on Former Prisoners of War and mandated medical and dental care. It also identified certain diagnoses as presumptive service-connected conditions for former POWs.

Subsequent public laws and policy decisions by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs have added additional diagnoses to the list of presumptive conditions.

WWI to Modern Day

What Are the Presumptive Conditions for Former POWs?

Today, former POWs are generally entitled to a presumption of service-connection for eight diseases, regardless of the length of captivity, if manifested to a degree of 10 percent or more after discharge or release from active military, naval, or air service.



Dysthymic disorder or depressive neurosis

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis

Any of the Anxiety States

Cold Injury

Stroke and Complications

Heart Disease and Complications

Osteoporosis, on or after October 10, 2008, when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is diagnosed

POWs Interned for 30 Days or More

If a former POW was interned for 30 days or more, the following additional diseases are presumed to be service-connected.



Chronic Dysentery


Malnutrition, including associated Optic Atrophy

Any other nutritional deficiency

Peptic Ulcer Disease


Cirrhosis of the Liver

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Pellagra and any other nutritional deficiency

Peripheral Neuropathy, except where directly related to infectious causes

Osteoporosis, on or after September 28, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should a Former POW Apply for VA Compensation?

Former POWs can receive application assistance at any Los Angeles County Veterans Service Office or apply online by clicking the button below.

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Are There Medical Benefits for Former POWs?

YES – Additionally, the VA health care system affords priority treatment for former POWs. Those who have a service–connected disability are eligible for VA health care. This includes hospital, nursing home, and outpatient treatment. Former POWs who do not have a service-connected disability are eligible for VA hospital and nursing home care – without regard to their ability to pay. They are also eligible for outpatient care on a priority basis – second only to veterans with service-connected disabilities.

While former POWs are receiving treatment in an approved outpatient treatment program, they are eligible for needed medicines, glasses, hearing aids, or prostheses. They are also eligible for all needed dental care. There is no co-payment requirement for former POWs at VA pharmacies.

Are There Benefits for Survivors of Former POWs?

YES – The major benefit is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) which is a monthly benefit payable to the surviving spouse (and the former POW’s children and parents in some cases) when the former POW:

Was a service member who died on active duty; or
Died from service-related disabilities; or
Died on or before September 30, 1999 and was continuously rated totally disabled for a service connected condition (including individual unemployability) for at least 10 years immediately preceding death; or
Died after September 30, 1999, and was continuously rated totally disabled for a service-connected condition (including individual unemployability) for at least 1 year immediately preceding death.
DIC is terminated for a surviving spouse who remarries, but can be resumed if the remarriage ends in death, divorce, or annulment.

However, a surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003, can continue to receive DIC.


For questions, call toll-free:

877-4 LA VETS