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Veterans Law

What is a Prisoner of War (POW)?

April 16, 2018
Prisoner of War POW

Veterans who were forcibly detained or held captive by a hostile force, enemy government, or its agents while in the line of duty during active military service are considered to be a former Prisoner of War (POWs).

In addition, veterans who were forcibly imprisoned by a foreign government, its agents, or a hostile force during a time of peace are considered to be former prisoners of war as long as the conditions of captivity were comparable to wartime internment.

According to the VA, more than 500,000 Americans have been captured and interned as prisoners of war since the American Revolution, with 142,000 prisoners of war since World War I. As of 2007, VA estimates that about 16,000 POWs were receiving disability compensation and healthcare for their service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses incurred from their time spent in service.

The VA offers certain benefits to former Prisoners of War whose disabilities or medical conditions manifested as a result of time spent as a POW and are at least 10% disabling at any time following service due to time spent in captivity. Veterans who meet these criteria may qualify for VA compensation, pension, health care, education and training, insurance, home loans, burial allowances, insurance, and vocational rehabilitation and employment.

Former Prisoners of War seeking assistance with VA benefits should reach out to their local VA Regional Office, as each location has a Prisoner of War Outreach Coordinator. Prisoner of War Outreach Coordinators can serve as a direct point of contact for former POWs to learn about the benefits available to them.  Any veteran pursuing a claim for disability benefits from the VA is encouraged to reach out to a VA accredited representative or agent to aid in navigating the process.

To apply for compensation and/or pension benefits for a service-connected condition, injury, illness or disease, veterans must complete and submit VA Form 21-526: Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Pension to a local VA Regional Office, or they may do so online.

Click here to learn the benefits VA offers to former POWs. VA has also established a list of presumptive conditions associated with time spent in captivity as a prisoner of war.