The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces.
We trace our roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service. Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.
In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations that would eventually band together and become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. Today, membership stands at more than 1.5 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary.
Our voice was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, development of the national cemetery system, in the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, we won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America’s active duty service members, and members of the guard and reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were the driving force behind the Veterans Access and Accountability Act of 2014, and continually fight for improved VA medical centers services for women veterans.
Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, in 2005 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November 2010. And in 2015, we became the first supporter of the National Desert Storm War Memorial which is planned for construction at our nation’s capital.
We have many programs and services that work to support veterans, service members and their families, as well as communities worldwide. Please check out our latest fact sheet or spend some time browsing our site to learn why No One Does More For Veterans.
Our Core Values:
Always put the interests of our members first
Treat donors as partners in our cause
Honor military service
Ensure the care of veterans and their families
Serve our communities
Promote a positive image of the VFW
Respect the diversity of veteran opinions
The VFW resulted from the amalgamation of several societies formed immediately following the Spanish–American War. In 1899, little groups of veterans returning from campaigning in Cuba and the Philippine Islands, founded local societies upon a spirit of comradeship known only to those who faced the dangers of that war side by side. Similar experiences and a common language drew them together. The American Veterans of Foreign Service (predecessor to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States) was established in Columbus, Ohio, September 29, 1899, by Spanish‑American War veteran James C. Putnam. The Colorado Society, Army of the Philippines, was organized in Denver, Colorado, on December 12, 1899. Shortly thereafter, a society known as the Foreign Service Veterans was born in Pennsylvania. These three veterans' organizations grew up side by side, increasing in scope and membership until August 1913, when at an encampment held at Denver, they merged their interests and identities in a national organization now known as the VFW.
The purpose of the VFW is to speed rehabilitation of the nation's disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans' widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by constructive service to local communities. The organization maintains both its legislative service and central office of its national rehabilitation service in Washington, D.C. The latter nationwide program serves disabled veterans of all wars, members and nonmembers alike, in matters of government compensation and pension claims, hospitalization, civil-service employment preference, etc."
Redesigned in November 2018, the official logo of the VFW includes an artistic representation of service stripes, easily recognizable insignia indicative of military service. Worn on most service uniforms, they denote length of service. As such, the first and leaner of the two service stripes represents the VFW's entry into its second century of service to America’s veterans, service members and their families. The second, broader stripe represents its first century of service, spanning back to 1899.
The Cross of Malta is the VFW's official emblem. The cross, radiating rays, and Great Seal of the United States together symbolize the character, vows and purposes distinguishing VFW as an order of warriors who have traveled far from home to defend sacred principles. Its eight points represent the beatitudes prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure, the merciful, the peacemakers; blessed are they who mourn, seek righteousness and are persecuted for righteousness' sake. The eight-pointed Cross of Malta harks back to the Crusades, launched during the 12th century.
As of 2020 the VFW has 1.6 million members and Auxiliary members, forming 6,000 local chapters known as Posts, grouped into 52 Departments covering the 50 states, the Asia-Pacific area, and Europe.
Support and Assistance Programs
The VFW offers a wide range of assistance programs aimed at helping veterans of every generation. This includes providing free, professional help filing or appealing a VA claim, offering scholarships for post-secondary education or providing emergency financial relief.
VA Claims and separation assistance
The VFW's National Veterans Service program consists of a nationwide network of VA accredited service officers and pre-discharge representatives who are experts in dealing with the VA and are the key to your success. The VA reports veterans represented by the VFW have recouped $8.3 billion in earned benefits, including $1.4 billion in new claims in 2018 alone.
With offices located on or near major military installations across the country, VFW Pre-Discharge representatives guide military personnel through the veterans claims process and conduct physical examinations prior to their separation from active duty. They are also ready to answer questions about education and medical benefits, as well as VA home loans.
Established in 2014, the VFW's Help A Hero Scholarship provides service members and veterans with financial assistance they need to complete their educational goals without incurring excessive U.S. student loan debt.
1 Student Veteran
To help ensure student veterans receive their benefits in a timely manner and have a place to turn to if they need help, the VFW, in conjunction with the Student Veterans of America (SVA), have developed the 1 Student Veteran program. 1 Student Veteran offers direct assistance to student veterans who have questions or are experiencing problems accessing their VA benefits.
VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship
The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship grants ten exemplary student veterans (fellows) the chance to join the VFW legislative team on Capitol Hill during the VFW Legislative Conference. The fellows will walk the halls of Congress, educating their legislators on the issues facing today's student veterans and have the opportunity to meet with policy-makers from federal agencies responsible for implementing veterans' policy.
Veterans and Military Support Programs
The VFW's Veterans & Military Support Programs is the umbrella for three successful, long-standing programs; Operation Uplink, Unmet Needs, and the Military Assistance Program (MAP). These initiatives focus on troop support.
Military Assistance Program
MAP is the link between the VFW and the community. MAP is designed to promote VFW interaction within the local military community through the Adopt-A-Unit Program. MAP Grants are available to posts, districts, and departments who participate in a variety of morale boosting functions such as farewell and welcome home events.
Operation Uplink keeps military members in contact with their loved ones by allowing deployed troops to call home at no charge from MWRinternet cafés in Afghanistan, Kuwait and other locations all around the world. Operation Uplink also distributes "virtual pins" which enable wounded warriors and veterans in Veterans Affairs facilities to call from home at no cost.
Unmet Needs assists military service members and their families who run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other hardships directly related to military service. Assistance is in the form of a grant of up to US$1,500. Unmet Needs assists with basic life needs such as: mortgage and rent, home and auto repairs, insurance, utilities, food and clothing.
The VFW promotes civic responsibility, patriotism, and supports youth and local programs in communities across America.
Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the US$2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW's Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship.
Patriot's Pen challenges students from grades 6-8, to enter to win one of 46 national awards totaling US$55,000, as well as $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national first-place winner. Students draft a 300-400 word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic, annual theme chosen by the VFW Commander in Chief.
Scout of the Year
Scout of the Year selects three young people – of the Boy or Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts or Venturing Crew – who have demonstrated practical citizenship in school, scouting and the community. The first-place winner receives a US$5,000 award, the second-place winner receives a US$3,000 award and the third-place winner receives US$1,000.
Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teach Americanism and patriotism to their students. The VFW recognizes the nation's top classroom elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach citizenship education topics – at least half of the school day in a classroom environment – and promote America's history, traditions and institutions effectively.
The VFW host events across America, as well as giving grants and helping at large-scale volunteer events.
The VFW also publishes the monthly VFW Magazine. It was known as Foreign Service before 1951.
Notable national commanders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars have included:
^ abVeterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Congressional Charter, National By-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual (2018 Podium ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. 2017. p. 7.
^Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Congressional Charter, National By-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual (2018 Podium ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. 2017. p. 42.
^Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Congressional Charter, National By-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual (2018 Podium ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. 2017. p. 44.
^Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Congressional Charter, National By-Laws, Manual of Procedure and Ritual (2018 Podium ed.). Kansas City, Missouri: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. 2017. pp. 56–61.
KANSAS CITY, MO 64111-2721 | Tax-exempt since Oct. 1996
Classification (NTEE) Employment Procurement Assistance, Job Training (Employment, Job-Related)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.