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VA Seeks Former POWs for Possible Benefit Awards

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2003 – The Department of Veterans Affairs wants former prisoners of war who aren't using VA benefits to contact the department to find out if they may be eligible for disability compensation and other services.

More than 23,000 former prisoners of war already receive compensation from VA. This year, the department mailed information about benefits to another 4,700 known ex-POWs not on its rolls. However, VA estimates it does not have an address for as many as 11,000 more former POWs.

VA is asking former POWs not receiving benefits who did not receive a VA letter recently to call the department at 1-800-827-1000.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said VA has expanded policies to cover increasing numbers of former POWs as new illnesses have been found related to captivity. The administration currently is pressing to get even more compensation and medical care benefits for former POWs.

"These veterans sacrificed for their country in time of war, and it's the nation's turn to serve them, to help them determine if they are entitled to compensation, health care or other services," Principi said.

According to the VA, 90 percent of former POWs are veterans of World War II, and their service predates the use of Social Security numbers as a military "service number." That, coupled with the decades that have elapsed since their service, makes it difficult for the department to track down those who have not opened a file with VA in recent years, VA officials said.

The most recent expansion of VA benefits for former POWs was a July regulation that added cirrhosis of the liver to the list of diseases to which entitlement to disability compensation is presumed in former POWs. Similar policies making it easier for former POWs to obtain compensation have been enacted for POWs detained for 30 days or more who develop specific illnesses.

(Adapted from a Department of Veterans Affairs news release.)

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