American Ex-Prisoners of War
A not-for-profit, Congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organization advocating for former prisoners of war and their families.

Established April 14, 1942.

Important VA National Phone Numbers
Benefits: 1-800-827-1000
Health Care: 1-877-222-VETS (8387)
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
VA Benefits for Former Prisoners Of War
As a former POW you are eligible for special veterans benefits, including medical care in VA hospitals and disability compensation for injuries and diseases caused by internment. These benefits are in addition to regular veterans benefits and services to which you, as a veteran, are entitled.

Starvation, exposure to the elements and other things encountered by POWs have been proven to cause long term damage, of which you may not be aware, to vital organs. Now, many years later many common conditions that you may now have (like arthritis, heart disease, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, etc.) can be directly traced back to your incarceration as a prisoner of war and as such you are entitled to receive VA disability compensation for them.

Find an NSO near you
National Service Officers are volunteer advocates who help former POWs and their next of kin understand the full range of benefits they are entitled to and prepare a well-grounded claim to present to the Veterans Administration. It is not necessary to engage an NSO to file, but their knowledge of and familiarity with VA rules and procedures can be a valuable resource when dealing with such a large government organization.

For a list of AXPOW-approved NSOs, Click Here. They are trained, certified by the VA and their credentials confirmed by AXPOW. They are listed by city and state to help you find one nearest you. This list is updated periodically based on VA-provided data. You can check any NSOs qualifications with this search tool on the VA website (

Studies have shown that the physical hardships and psychological stress endured by POWs have life-long effects on health and on social and vocational adjustment. These studies also indicate increased vulnerability to psychological stress.

The laws on former POW benefits recognize that military medical records do not cover periods of captivity. A former POW is eligible for disability compensation if any of the presumptive disabilities are found at any time at a compensable level (at least 10 percent disabling). For POWs detained for 30 days or more, it will be presumed that the disability was incurred in or aggravated during military service, unless there is evidence of some other cause.

Compensation is paid based on the degree of disability. Veterans rated as 30 percent or more disabled qualify for additional benefits based upon the number of dependents. Dependents of those rated 100 percent disabled may qualify for educational assistance. Spouses of veterans who die as a result of service-connected disabilities are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation.

Spouses of former POWs rated 100% disabled for one year or more prior to death are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation.

Former POWs receive special priority for VA health-care enrollment, even if their illness has not been formally associated with their service. Former POWs are exempt from making means test co-payments for inpatient and outpatient medical care and medications, but they have the same co-pay rules as other veterans for extended care. They also are now eligible for dental care without any length-of-internment requirement.

For assistance, call the VA at the number listed above. They can direct you to a knowledgeable service officer in your area.

State and County Veterans Service Officers, employed by their respective states, also know their way around the VA system. They can assist veterans and their families in a number of ways. Services Officers can help you with compensation/pensions, medical care, military records, grave markers and veteran home loans. Some counties may also have dedicated funds to assist you with temporary shelter/utilities, food/health supplies, medical/dental, job placement, counseling, and transportation.

By law, an individual must be accredited by VA as an agent, attorney, or representative of a VA-recognized veterans service organization to assist in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits. 38 U.S.C. §§ 5901-5902, 5904; 38 C.F.R. § 14.629. VA regulations provide a one-time only exception to this general rule, which authorizes a person to provide assistance on a particular claim, but such assistance must be without cost to the claimant and is otherwise subject to the laws governing representation. 38 C.F.R. § 14.630. An individual who is not accredited by VA is otherwise prohibited by law from assisting claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims before VA.

By law, no person or organization may charge claimants a fee for assistance in preparing applications for VA benefits or presenting claims to VA. VA-accredited agents and attorneys may charge fees for assistance on a claim for VA benefits only after VA has issued a decision on a claim, a Notice of Disagreement has been filed initiating an appeal of that decision, and the agent or attorney has complied with the power-of-attorney requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.631 and the fee agreement requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(g). 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1); 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(c).

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

What is DIC ?
DIC is a monthly check paid to eligible survivors of certain deceased veterans.

Who is Eligible ?
To get DIC, you must be an eligible survivor of a veteran who died because of a service-related illness or injury.

If the veteran's death was NOT service-related, you may still be eligible if ANY of the following conditions existed at the time of death:

  • The veteran was getting VA Disability Compensation for a total disability for the last 10 years. (Note that this also includes veterans who would have received VA compensation but didn't because they were getting m-ilitary retirement or disability pay.)
  • The veteran was getting VA Disability Compensation for a total disability continuously since released from active duty and for at least 5 years.
  • The veteran was a former prisoner of war, was getting VA Disability Compensation for a total disability continuously for at least one year before death, and died after September 30,
You may be an eligible survivor if:
  • you were married to the veteran for at least 1 year (Note: If a child was born, there is no time requirement) AND
  • your marriage was valid AND
  • you lived with the veteran continuously until his/her death or, if you were separated, you weren't at fault AND
  • you are not currently remarried. OR
  • you are an unmarried child of a deceased veteran AND
  • you are under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.
Note: Certain helpless adult children and some parents of deceased veterans are entitled to DIC. Contact a NSO Officer for the eligibility requirements for these survivors.

How Can I Apply?
You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency And Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension And Accrued Benefits By A Surviving Spouse or Child, and mailing it to the VA regional office that serves your area. Contact a National Service Officer for information about other supporting materials that the VA may need to process your claim.

Related Benefits
-Health Insurance (CHAMPVA)
-Home Loan Guaranty
-Federal Employment Preference
-Survivors' & Dependents'Educational Assistance

Presumptive Conditions for Disability Compensation
Certain veterans are eligible for disability compensation based on the presumption that their disability is service-connected. In addition to the presumptives for various classes of veterans (i.e. Agent Orange, ALS, etc.) certain disabilities are presumptives unique to former prisoners of war.

For former POWs who were imprisoned for any length of time, the following disabilities are presumed to be service-connected if they are rated at least 10 percent disabling anytime after military service: psychosis, any of the anxiety states, dysthymic disorder, organic residuals of frostbite, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease and their complications, stroke and residuals of stroke.

For former POWs who were imprisoned for at least 30 days, the following conditions are also presumed to be service-connected: avitaminosis, beriberi, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis, malnutrition (including optic atrophy), pellagra and/or other nutritional deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis (with PTSD) and cirrhosis of the liver.

Only a doctor can make the final decision, but the Service Officer can help you write your history so the facts are presented. You and your spouse can sit down with an NSO, go carefully over the necessary forms, and then talk you about what is happening in your life that may make you eligible for compensation. He or she will make no promises, but will put forth every effort to assist you.

What is a National Service Officer?
Recently a person inquired about Service Officers and what they do, and also asked if it is necessary to have a Service Officer to file a claim.

In reply to the first query, a Service Officer is an advocate for the veteran, and is not an adversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He or she helps a claimant in preparing a well-grounded claim.  The Service Officer is thoroughly familiar with the process and will assist from the development of a claim to the final adjudication.

Many former POWs do not consider all of the things that happened to them while they were in an enemy's hands - the physical abuse, such as forced marches, or beatings, the mental abuse of being questioned over and over again about military matters, and spending time in solitary confinement, or other forms of torture.  Were you well fed, did you have adequate clothing and housing, and have leisure time in the company of your buddies? Unfortunately not.Maybe you managed to get along fairly well right after you returned home, but how are you feeling now - 50 or 55 years later?

As to the second question - no, one does not need a Service Officer in order to file a claim - but why not take advantage the knowledge available through one?  These men and women are volunteers.

American Ex-Prisoners of War National Headquarters PO Box 3444 Arlington,TX 76007-3444
817-649-2979 Fax 817-649-0109