American Legion vs. VFW: Understanding the Differences and Impact


In the realm of veterans’ organizations, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) stand out as pillars of support for those who have served in the United States military. Both organizations have a rich history, extensive community outreach, and a commitment to serving the needs of veterans. However, there are distinct differences between the American Legion and the VFW that are worth exploring to better understand their unique contributions to the veteran community.


1. American Legion: A Voice for All Veterans

   The American Legion was founded in 1919 after World War I, and its primary focus is on advocacy, support, and community service for veterans. With over 2 million members, the American Legion has a broad reach and works to influence legislation that benefits veterans. It is open to anyone who has served honorably in the military during times of conflict.

2. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW): Focused on Combat Veterans

   The VFW was established in 1899 and is specifically geared toward combat veterans who have earned a campaign medal. With approximately 1.5 million members, the VFW places a strong emphasis on camaraderie among veterans and provides a platform for them to share their experiences. The VFW is known for its robust network of posts that serve as community hubs for veterans.

Key Differences:

1. Eligibility Criteria:

American Legion: Open to all U.S. military veterans who served honorably during eligible periods, including peacetime.

VFW: Limited to veterans with specific criteria, including having served in combat zones and earned a campaign medal.

2. Focus on Combat Service:

American Legion: Advocates for veterans on a broad spectrum, addressing issues related to healthcare, education, employment, and overall well-being.

VFW: Concentrates on the experiences of combat veterans, offering a supportive environment where they can share their stories and challenges.

3. Community Outreach:

American Legion: Engages in various community service projects, supports youth programs, and promotes patriotism and Americanism.

VFW: Establishes community-oriented posts that often serve as gathering places for veterans, hosting events and providing a sense of belonging.

4. Legislative Advocacy:

American Legion: Actively lobbies for legislation that benefits all veterans, working to address systemic issues within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other government agencies.

VFW: Advocates for policies and legislation that specifically impact combat veterans, ensuring their unique needs are considered.


While both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars share the common goal of supporting and advocating for veterans, their differences lie in eligibility criteria, focus areas, and the nature of their outreach. Whether a veteran joins the American Legion or the VFW depends on their individual experiences and preferences. Ultimately, both organizations play crucial roles in fostering a sense of community, advocating for veterans’ rights, and ensuring that those who have served receive the support they deserve.