More than one-half million Americans have been captured and interned as Prisoners of War since the American Revolution. The largest number of POWs occurred during the Civil War when an estimated 220,000 Confederate soldiers were captured by the North and nearly 127,000 Union soldiers, were interned by the South.
Since World War I, over 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. Nearly 30% of America’s POWs since World War I are still living (29,350). More than 90% of our living POWs were captured and interned during World War II.
In 1980, Congress mandated VA to conduct a study of former POWs to assess their health needs, and make recommendations for improvement of benefits and services. As a result, for more than 20 years, eligibility for health care and benefits has been liberalized, and an Advisory Committee on Former POWs has been established to advise the Secretary about the ongoing needs of POWs and their survivors.