Since the days of World War I, over 142, 000 residents of America have been captured and trained as POWs. This figure does not include the 93, 000 or more who were either lost or never recovered at all. Only a fifth of the former POWs who had been recruited during World War I are still alive, a figure almost equaling 22, 641. Over 90 % of the former POWs who are still alive today had been captured and trained during the Second World War. More than 15, 300 POWs are still receiving compensation for injuries sustained during service or illnesses.
Public Law 97-37, dubbed “Former Prisoners of War Benefit Act” was passed by Congress. The law achieved several things. It brought into existence an Advisory Committee for former prisoners of war and ordered the provision of dental and health care to former prisoners of war. It also identified medical conditions which some POWs had suffered during service. Subsequently, the secretary of veteran’s affairs made policy decisions and introduced public laws which added more diagnoses to the list.
In addition, priority treatment courtesy of the VA health care system is accorded to all former POWs. Those with a disability connected to service are entitled to VA health care. The health care includes nursing home, hospital and outpatient treatment. Former POWs without a disability connected to service are entitled to VA health care irrespective of their ability to pay. They are also entitled to priority outpatient care which is only second to veteran with service related disabilities. While receiving treatment, former POWs are also entitled to medicines, prostheses, hearing aids, dental care and glasses. No former POWs are required to pay for all the pharmacy expenses.
Former POWs are free to apply for compensation if they have any injuries or illnesses incurred during service by filling the VA Form 21-526.