The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is an organization that advocates on behalf of all veterans of overseas conflicts. This nonprofit veteran service organization includes eligible veterans of active, Guard, and Reserve forces.
After the Spanish-American War ended in 1898 and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), many veterans arrived back home, wounded and sick. There was no medical care or veteran pensions available for them. Some of these veterans banded together to form the early precursor of the organization that would later become the VFW. Chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania and the movement gained traction. Currently, there are more than 1.5 million members in the VFW and its auxiliary organizations.
How Does the VFW Support Our Military Community?
The VFW has helped fund the creation of several war memorial monuments, including the Vietnam War, Korean War, WWII and Women in the Military Service memorials.
In 2005, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to contribute to building a Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in 2010. In 2015, the VFW became the first supporter of the National Desert Storm War Memorial.
VFW was also instrumental in the establishment of Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) and helped develop the national cemetery system. VFW’s advocacy efforts fought for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome.
The continued fight for improved medical center services for veterans continues to be paramount to VFW’s mission. In particular, the VFW was the driving force for the Veterans Access and Accountability Act of 2014 and is currently advocating for legislation to support those who have experienced military sexual trauma.
Does VFW Help with Veterans Benefits Claims?
The VFW is the largest organization of combat veterans, so they are well-versed in the nuanced process of filing for separation and benefits claims. The process can be frustrating, so the VFW established the National Veterans Service (NVS) to help all veterans, service members, and families navigate the steps.
NVS is a nationwide network of VA accredited service officers and pre-discharge representatives who are all experts in dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These individuals can help combat veterans get the care they need. VA reports show that veterans represented by the VFW have received more than $9 billion in earned benefits, with $1.4 billion in 2019 alone.
Understanding VA benefits and what to expect after filing a claim is just part of the process. The VFW will work with you every step of the way to ensure once you’re ready to file a claim, you’ll have all of the resources you need.
Before transitioning from the military, the VFW recommends exploring pre-discharge options. The VFW pre-discharge program was established in 2001 to ensure separating and retiring active-duty military personnel get the services they need. Pre-discharge offices are located at or near major military installations across the country. If you’re within 180 days from discharge, it is important to start the process now. Find out what you need to bring and what to expect at your first meeting.
What Other Guidance is Offered?
In addition to assisting veterans with benefits and claim information, the VFW offers financial grants, student veteran support, and a mental health wellness resource aimed at dismantling the stigma associated with PTSD.
The VWF also widely supports various advocacy causes, including improving legislative processes, national security and foreign affairs, advocacy relating to women veterans, and other grassroots efforts. The organization prides itself on being the watchdog of the VA and is quick to explore any allegations of mistreatment of veterans.
Who Is Eligible for VFW Services?
As established in the bylaws, there are three qualifiers to join the VFW:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.
- You must have received an honorable or general under honorable discharge or be currently serving in the military.
- Your service must include service in a war, campaign or expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters.
The latter of these criteria can be authenticated with an authorized campaign medal, receipt of hostile fire pay or imminent danger day or service in Korea for 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days.
More information can be found here.
How Does VFW Compare to Similar Organizations?
The VFW is not open to all veterans. To qualify for VFW membership, the service member needs to have been in a situation that warranted either hazardous pay or imminent danger pay or must have been deployed.
The VFW currently has the highest proportion of combat veterans, compared to the American Legion or AMVETS.
The VFW does a lot in terms of member advocacy and ensuring that every veteran receives the benefits they are entitled to. So, in this way, the services offered by the VFW stand to have a larger impact than direct services offered to individuals.