This Friday is National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day. The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System has had the privilege of providing health care to some of these special veterans since 1923.
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. As of January 2020, there were 58 former POWs residing in Oklahoma still receiving VA benefits. Although their population has declined over recent years, our goal is to ensure all remaining former POWs receive the benefits they are entitled to.
In 1981, Congress passed Public Law 97-37 entitled "Former Prisoners of War (FPOW) Benefit Act." Several benefits were established because of this law. Perhaps most importantly, medical and dental care was mandated. At the VA, veterans with a service-connected disability are eligible for VA health care, and priority treatment is given to FPOWs. This includes hospital, nursing home, and outpatient treatment. FPOWs 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 also are eligible for outpatient care on a priority basis – second only to veterans with service-connected disabilities. There is no co-payment requirement for FPOWs at VA pharmacies.
Additionally, there are multiple financial benefits for FPOWs. It is important that all FPOWs speak with the POW Veterans Outreach coordinator at their local VA Regional Office (1-800-827-1000). They also can get assistance with applying for service-connected compensation from a service officer with any veterans service organization.
There are even benefits available for survivors of FPOWs. The primary 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; died from service-related disabilities; or died on or before Sept. 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 Sept. 30, 1999, and was continuously rated totally disabled for a service-connected condition (including individual unemployability) for at least one 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 Dec. 16, 2003, can continue to receive DIC.
For more information on FPOW benefits, visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/former-pows/.
If you, or someone you love, is an FPOW and you are unsure if they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to, contact Pagette Beatty, LCSW/FPOW coordinator, at (918) 913-5893.