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house Bill H.R. 3527

Should Former POWs be Elected to Priority Group 1 in the VA’s Queue for Benefits & Services?

Argument in favor

Former POWs paid an unimaginable price for serving their country. Accordingly, their country owes them the best possible health care as quickly as possible. Elevating POWs to Priority Group 1 in the VA’s Priority Group system will ensure they get speedy care.

Argument opposed

The two priority groups that veterans are include veterans with more severe service-related disabilities that affect their quality of life. If former POWs are otherwise healthy, it’s unfair to give them the same priority as sick and disabled veterans with higher disability ratings.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedJune 27th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 3527?

This bill — the POW Priority Care Act of 2019 — would elevate former prisoners of war (POWs) to Priority Group 1 in the scale used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine eligibility for healthcare benefits and services. Currently, POWs are allocated to Priority Group 3.


Veterans; former POWs; health care services administered to veterans at the VA; the VA; and the VA’s Priority Groups system.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3527

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) introduced this bill to elevate POWs in the queue for VA care

“We owe every veteran who wears the uniform our steadfast gratitude and commitment to delivering timely, high quality care. Prisoners of War not only answered the call of duty, but they endured unthinkable hardship and made unquestioned sacrifice in service to our country. We will never forget those who did not return home. For those who did, after facing such adversity, one way we can recognize their valor is to ensure former POWs are moved to the highest priority slot when it comes to their care at the VA.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) adds that POWs should “go to the front of the line” for VA care

“Our veterans risked all they had for our nation, and our former prisoners of war bore the burden of that service through unimaginable sacrifice. In recognition of their valor and unique hardship, it’s fitting that we ensure that former POWs are able to go to the front of the line to receive the care they need through the VA.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) adds that POWs’ current lower priority is inexplicable

“Prisoners of War have gone through the unimaginable. They should have top priority when receiving VA medical care, but right now, they are inexplicably given lower priority. I was proud to introduce the POW Priority Care Act with Reps. Walberg, Krishnamoorthi, and Rush to right this wrong.”

This bill has three bipartisan cosponsors, including two Democrats and one Republican.

Of NoteIn a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, Rep. Walberg’s office observes that veterans have a comprehensive medical benefits package administered by the VA. The VA’s system has eight Priority Groups, which were established to ensure that certain groups of veterans are able to enroll in the VA health care program before others. POWs are currently in Priority Group 3, along with Purple Heart awardees, Medal of Honor recipients, veterans discharged because a disability was either caused or aggravated in the line of duty, veterans with service-connected disabilities (SCDs) of 10-20% and veterans with a special eligibility classification. 

Ahead of Priority Group 3, Priority Group 1 includes veterans with SCDs rated 50% or more and veterans who the VA determines are unemployable due to SCDs. Priority Group 2 includes veterans with SCDs at 30-40%. 


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: / JannHuizenga)


POW Priority Care Act of 2019

Official Title

To amend title 38, United States Code, to assign the highest priority status for hospital care and medical services provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans who are former prisoners of war.

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