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Ex-POWs urged to get benefits

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WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs wants former prisoners of war who are not getting disability compensation, health care and other benefits to contact the department.

The agency said Friday an estimated 11,000 former POWs are not getting benefits to which they are entitled. The VA issued the plea in conjunction with National POW-MIA Recognition Day.

VA Secretary Anthony Principi said more ex-POWs are eligible for benefits as new illnesses are determined to be related to their captivity.

Former POWs are eligible for VA medical care and are exempt from health care co-payments. Free dental treatment is available if their captivity lasted more than 90 days.

"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.

The VA said more than 23,000 former POWs receive compensation. The VA sent a letter to another 4,700 to tell them that they were entitled to benefits.

VA said it is hard to find many former POWs because they served during World War II, before Social Security numbers were used as military service numbers.

VA is asking anyone who knows of former POWs who are not enrolled for benefits or who did not receive a letter to call 1-800-827-1000.

On the Net: VA services for former POWs: www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Benefits/POW