The VFW traces its 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, and they were left to care for themselves.
In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed
organizations with what would 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. By 1915,
membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.
Since then, the VFW's voice has been instrumental in establishing
the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, developing the national cemetery system and the fight for
compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans
diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, VFW 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.
The VFW also has fought to improve the VA medical systems services for female 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.
Annually, the nearly 2 million members of the VFW and its
Auxiliaries contribute more than 8.6 million hours of volunteerism in
the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and
National Volunteer Week.
From providing over $3 million in college scholarships and savings
bonds to students every year to encouraging the elevation of the Department
of Veterans Affairs to the president's cabinet, the VFW is there.