Former Prisoners of War - Hampton VA Medical Center
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Hampton VA Medical Center


Former Prisoners of War

Former Prisoner of War (FPOW) Advocate Program

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.


How Should a Former POW Apply for VA Compensation?

Former POWs can apply for compensation for their service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses by completing VA Form 21-526, Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension.  They can also apply online at 

For more information, contact FPOW Advocate Leon Walker, (757) 722-9961 or visit





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.  These diseases are:

Cold Injury 
Dysthymic disorder or depressive neurosis
Stroke and Complications 
Post-traumatic osteoarthritis
Heart Disease and Complications  
Any of the Anxiety States
Osteoporosis, on or after October 10, 2008, when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is diagnosed

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

Chronic Dysentery
Cirrhosis of the Liver
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Malnutrition, including associated Optic Atrophy
Any other nutritional deficiency
Pellagra and any other nutritional deficiency
Peripheral Neuropathy, except where directly related to infectious causes
Peptic Ulcer Disease
Osteoporosis, on or after September 28, 2009

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.