Why Join the American Legion or the VFW?

What are the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) organizations? What do they offer to soldiers, both retired and active? Many people do not know what either of these organizations are, how they came to be, or what they can offer to their members. Below is some basic information about these organizations and what they can offer you.

American Legion LogoThe American Legion
There are many soldiers, whether they be active or retired who are unaware of what the American Legion has to offer and what they are all about. First of all, it is good to know that the American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919. They are a patriotic veteran’s organization; their programs and activities link them to the nation as a whole, one community at the time.

The mission of the American Legion is to offer support programs to all soldiers. Some of these services include benefit centers, career centers, health and education and also family and youth support. Obviously troops support is their main objective and the focal point of their services. Their website, www.legion.org, can direct you to multiple services ranging from support for disabled veterans right down to financial assistance if need be. There are also resources for career and employment opportunities, and you can locate the American Legion Center closest to you.

VFW LogoVeterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
Another organization that veterans of a war zone should consider joining is the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War founded local organizations that would later become the VFW. The VFW was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration and creating G.I. bills for the 20th and 21st centuries. In fact, there currently are approximately 2,000,000 members.

The VFW National Headquarters is in Kansas City, MO. To become a member you can go online at www.vfw.org/Join/ to sign up. There are different types of memberships such as:

  • Annual – $35 per year to be considered a Member-at-Large at a post in your state
  • Life – the price is different based on age and offers you membership at any post worldwide as well as a few other perks
  • Legacy Life – there are three levels available (gold, silver, bronze) that offer their own addition benefits as well as the benefits of a Life member

The VFW’s vision is “ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of our nation.” As with the American Legion, the VFW offers many services to our Veterans of Foreign Wars. Some of the services that are available at the various posts include filing a VA claim, securing separation benefits, explaining how to use education benefits, helping with applications for college scholarships, and financial assistance if need be. Also, if the need should arise, they also provide a veterans crisis line. The VFW offers multiple services geared towards all the needs of our veterans, including the mind, body and physical needs. Their website, www.vfw.org can direct you to the closest post in your area to assist you in any issue that you may have or just for a place to hang out with other military members, old and new.

According to Ramdi Law, VFW spokesman, VFW membership has dropped by approximately 400,000 soldiers. Their ranks simply are not being replenished. It is the general consensus that soldiers from recent wars now have so much technology available such as computers and cell phones that they choose to keep in touch with members of their former units or even boot camp. But they aren’t receiving all of the benefits that membership offers.

Not Just for “Old” Guys
There seems to be a mistaken perception that the American Legion and the VFW are for older retirees. In reality, the services offered can benefit any service member, young or old, who needs help in multitude of areas – or just to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow veterans. I am a member of both myself and I am not that old!

Are you a member? Why or why not?

Teresa Agostino

Teresa Agostino

Originally from Canada, Terri moved to the US at 16 and joined the Army Reserves at 17. She went active Army in 1991, and spent almost 2 years in Iraq as a program analyst for the Army Corps of Engineers. She currently works for the VA as an Accounts Management Supervisor. Terri has her MBA in HR management.
Teresa Agostino

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30 thoughts on “Why Join the American Legion or the VFW?

  1. I know this is an older post but besides the benefits mentioned – I recently found out your VFW or American Legion membership card can be used as proof of veteran status for discounts (http://themilitarywallet.com/). California is just now making the veteran status available on the driver license as well. My buddies membership card saved me 10% for motorcycle parts and I was sold! Joined the Legion the next day..

  2. If a direct family member , father , brother , or mother served in the vietnam war does that give me the right to join the V. F. W ???

    1. No, you have to have served in an area that gave specific campaign or expeditionary medals. If not you can join the VFW auxiliary

    2. I am trying to find this answer out as well ,My father served in Korea .I live in Williamson NY .Please let me know .Thanks for reading .

  3. The VFW is in violation of the stolen valor acts. They have been and still are, signing up veterans who are not eligible. They are approving dd-214’s at the district & or state level, by veterans without any campaign ribbon. This means something is being altered in the system to get around this very basic requirement for eligibility. Some posts actually have officers and commanders who do not have this very important requirement. Shame on the leadership of such a fine organization for looking the other way. What an insult to the veterans who did earn a campaign ribbon as a “veteran of a foreign war” or, VFW.

    1. Not necessarily. The requirement is either to have a (1) campaign ribbon, (2) received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, verified with LES, or (3) service in Korea for 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days as verified by a DD-214. Not all members who served in a foreign war are awarded a campaign ribbon.

    2. How do you know this stuff you’re alleging is true?
      If these are facts, you should start by alerting the local post commander. Bringing it to an online forum is not the answer to the problem.

    3. Quite a leap to say that if an ineligible veteran becomes a member of a Veterans Service Organization that the organization is in violation of the stolen valor act.
      If the DD-214 is falsified, that’s on the veteran and as mentioned below you need 30 (consecutive) or 60 (non-consecutive) days in Korea to qualify and a TDY or even a tour in Korea will not usually be noted on the DD-214 (I spent 3 tours – or just over 1800 days in country and the you wouldn’t know it by my 214). There is a problem at SOME VSO’s that they don’t ask for (or look at) DD-214’s although organizational policy dictates as much. So the problem is a combination or some organizations and some wanna-bee’s – and as long as membership keeps declining, a workable solution will be more difficult to obtain.

  4. Thank you for pointing out that there are people exploiting the system. I am going to do some extra research and find out if this is possibly true at my local VFW. Shame on those who are participating in this.

  5. I am a recent Army retiree in the area and looking to join a Veteran Organization. If I join the VFW will someone contact me or act as a liaison for any questions I have?? (I was medically retired for an injury sustained in OIF and I am trying to file for CRSC as well as file an additional disability claim)

  6. Is there any organization that non-war time veterans can join. My husband served 24 years, but never saw combat. What military organization is open to him?

    1. Yup – the AMVETS (American Veterans) will take veterans regardless of date served, and the 40-8 will do the same.

  7. I was in the infantry for 3yrs 76-79 and can’t join the American legion. It’s not fair some pencil pusher has more right. System is fucked up need let all good solders join. Feel like I’m being discriminated

  8. I was Navy on board the USS Independence..i recieved the Armed forces Expeditionary and the Navy commendation medal among others. Can anyone tell me why i should join the VFW? I’m not much of a bar fly

    1. I would investigate the local VFW and American Legion. Both organizations have come to realize although camaraderie plays a big part in belonging, the need to lose the “sitting around drinking and swapping war stories” no longer is a draw for current/younger and even many older (wiser) veterans. Although some local posts still embrace the “We’re a bar first” attitude, many (MANY) posts have figured out that in order to keep growing and attracting new members, they have to highlight their work in the community, with local veterans and start working the many programs associated with their organization!

  9. It’s very difficult to find veterans to join an overseas post like our American Legion Post TH01 in Thailand. We allow members to participate in our meetings via Google Hangouts since many spend only 1-6 months per year in country. We help out other veterans through our Service Officer program, as well as help the local community. We also have a contingent that volunteers with the US Embassy in Bangkok to assist Americans in Thailand.

  10. Retired in the US Navy and received Southwest Asia Service Medal onboard the USS Dixon AS-37 during the deployment 1992, it was not written on my DD-214 but it was written on my evaluation report signed by the ship’s CO. Am I qualified to
    join The American Legion or VFW, I don’t know where to join.

    1. do a google search for NDAWS. You can look up all awards any Navy unit has ever been awarded; it shows them by date of award and the time period for which it was awarded. As long as you can show that you were apart of that unit for the given award time period (dd214 or whatever) you have proof of earning the award. I’f you have that award, you should be able to join either.

  11. They told me, at local VFW, And I Know people that are members or Work there and are members-based on that their-my parent(s) served overseas (although my father has now been deceased years), I can join, upon approved application and able to provide his DD14. Thus, I am considering joining-In Honor of My Father Who Served During World War II-Navy-Overseas-Pacific Islands. I Don’t barely know Anyone there-And I’m Not a drinker, and I didn’t personally serve, But I want a way-to Honor My Father-Those Whome Served-Serve in the Military.

  12. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

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