What Is The Difference Between The American Legion And VFW?

Steven Hayes
By Steven Hayes 27 Min Read
27 Min Read

Start by discussing the American Legion and VFW briefly. These two organizations are essential in providing services to American Veterans. The American Legion was formed in 1919, whereas VFW started in 1899. Both offer support for veterans but have slight differences.

The main difference between the two is their eligibility requirements. The American Legion accepts anyone who has served the US military during times of war or conflict, whereas VFW only admits if the veteran served during a designated foreign war or campaign. Additionally, each organization has its own mission and objectives.

Moreover, the American Legion is known for focusing on community service initiatives, education, and supporting national security-focused legislation. In contrast, VFW prioritizes providing help to veterans facing medical emergencies and assisting veterans’ families.

Interestingly, the American Legion played an active role in advocating for benefits and rights of homecoming WWI veterans after Congress refused to compensate them financially. This led to a protest known as the Bonus Army march in Washington DC by over 25K bonus WWI vets demanding justice in 1932.

In summary, despite having similarities as non-profit organizations that cater to veteran welfare, they primarily differ based on their eligibility criteria and goals. Nevertheless, these entities collaboratively deliver vital assistance programs that aim at empowering veteran communities across America. Why read a boring explanation when you can learn the difference between American Legion and VFW with just one click?

Purpose of the Article

The article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the differences between the American Legion and VFW. The two organizations often appear similar but have distinct missions, membership requirements, and benefits. A comprehensive analysis will clarify whether a veteran should join one or both groups.

One significant difference is the eligibility requirements for joining each group. The American Legion maintains registration open to any honorably discharged U.S. military veterans who served post-9/11, while VFW eligibility necessitates overseas deployment during combat operations. Moreover, each organization has different objectives: The American Legion focuses on community service and advocacy for veterans’ benefits, while VFW concentrates on lobbying Congress about relevant issues affecting veterans.

It’s crucial to emphasize that there are specific advantages of being members of either or both organizations, such as scholarship opportunities, social activities, and exclusive discounts. Veterans should evaluate their needs and interests thoroughly before applying for their respective memberships.

Missing out on valuable membership benefits could occur if individuals do not understand the nuances between these two esteemed organizations. Joining either or both translates into commendable contributions towards fostering better communities for themselves and other deserving veterans in society.

From post-World War I camaraderie to present-day community service, these organizations have been fighting every war except the one against boredom.

Brief History of American Legion and VFW

American Legion and VFW are two veteran organizations that have different histories, goals, and membership criteria. American Legion was established in 1919, post World War I, by veterans who wanted to support their fellow servicemen. In contrast, VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) was founded in 1899 to help soldiers returning from the Spanish-American war. Despite these differences, both organizations share a strong commitment to serving the needs of veterans across America.

American Legion primarily focuses on policy advocacy for military personnel and veterans’ benefits while VFW continues to raise funds for needy veterans and their dependents. The former caters more to younger veterans while the latter has more older members due to its long history. Both emphasize community support through volunteerism.

One unique feature of American Legion is that it offers auxiliary membership for spouses or children of eligible veterans, while VFW permits only blood descendants or siblings of eligible service members. Moreover, American Legion’s honor guard symbolizes the organization’s commitment to paying homage to fallen comrades at funerals and other solemn events.

According to research from Military.com, as of 2021 approximately 2 million people belong to either American Legion or VFW in the United States. Joining the American Legion or VFW is like choosing between wearing a cowbell or a kazoo – both make noise, but one might be more your style.

Membership Differences Between American Legion and VFW

To understand the membership differences between American Legion and VFW, look into their eligibility requirements, membership fees, and benefits. Different eligibility requirements allow veterans to choose the right option, while varying membership fees and benefits make the organizations unique.

Eligibility Requirements for American Legion and VFW Memberships

The requirements for membership at American Legion and VFW vary based on certain criteria. Here are some factors that determine whether an individual is eligible for membership in either organization:

  • U.S. Military Service: An individual must have served in the military to be considered eligible for American Legion and VFW membership.
  • Conflict Periods: The timeframes during which an individual served also varies between the two organizations regarding eligibility for membership.
  • Awards and Honors: Military awards or decorations may be used as a basis for determining eligibility.
  • Geographic location: Some branches of the military only serve particular regions, which may affect an individual’s eligibility status.

In addition, VFW members must have received an honorable discharge from their service. These unique details may influence a person’s choice between these two veteran service organizations.

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Joining either organization has its respective advantages. Being a member of the American Legion provides more networking opportunities within veterans. By contrast, joining VFW provides access to various types of knowledge on benefits available to veterans such as medical bills concessions or how to file disability claims with established structures. To decide between the two organizations, prospective members must consider what aspects they prioritize most in a group and choose accordingly.

Joining the American Legion and VFW may cost you a pretty penny, but the good news is that your donation goes towards funding veterans’ programs and not towards the CEOs’ margarita fund.

Membership Fees for American Legion and VFW

The cost of acquiring membership in American Legion and VFW can be a determinant factor for veterans who want to join either organization. Therefore, it’s important to discuss their respective membership fees, benefits and unique differences.

A comparison table of the membership fees, renewal fees and other primary details for American Legion and VFW is presented below:

American Legion VFW
Membership Fee $45 $50
Renewal Fee $35 $35
Primary Focus Community service, legislative advocacy, youth programs Veterans assistance, national security & foreign affairs advocacy
Eligibility Criteria Veteran status required during specific periods Honorable military status with oversea tours qualifies

While both organizations offer similar benefits such as discounted hotel rates or financial assistance programs to their members; VFW focuses more on veterans’ affairs legislation advocacy while the American Legion prioritizes community based services.

Considering the above information about both organizations and their similarities and differences;

  1. potential members should weigh their preferences when choosing between the two fraternities.
  2. they should also look out for the eligibility criteria before joining any organization.

Finally, considering the difference in interests of both organizations, members can decide which one better serves their needs and interests.

Joining American Legion and VFW has more perks than a Costco membership, and you don’t even have to deal with the free samples.

Benefits of American Legion and VFW Membership

American Legion and VFW membership have distinct offers. Their advantages include educational benefits, community service opportunities, health care support, and access to social events.

  • Education – American Legion provides scholarships while VFW offers teacher of the year awards.
  • Community Service – Both organizations offer volunteer opportunities to support veterans and communities.
  • Health Care Support – American Legion provides assistance in navigating VA healthcare while VFW aids in accessing VA benefits.
  • Social Opportunities – Both organizations host social events such as picnics, fundraisers, and retirement ceremonies.

Additionally, American Legion focuses on youth education with programs like Boys State/Boys Nation which teaches high school students about government functions. Meanwhile, VFW has strong advocacy efforts for veterans’ rights and successfully lobbied for legislation like the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

One veteran shared a story about how American Legion helped him connect with his fellow servicemen who attended a reunion years later, proving that these memberships go beyond their surface-level benefits.

Why join just one veteran organization when you can have twice the drama and twice the politics with American Legion AND VFW?

Organizational Differences Between American Legion and VFW

To understand the difference between the American Legion and VFW, you need to know about their organizational differences. The organizational structure of the American Legion and VFW, as well as their focus and objectives, set them apart. Let’s delve more into the sub-sections to understand the dissimilarities between the two organizations.

Organizational Structure of American Legion and VFW

American Legion and VFW: Structure Comparison

Comparing the organizational structure of America’s two largest veteran service organizations, American Legion and VFW, reveals distinct differences in their leadership and membership hierarchy. The following table illustrates a detailed comparison between American Legion and VFW – their membership limitations, leadership positions, and organizational levels.

Category American Legion VFW
Membership Eligibility Military service or family Combat Service
Leadership Position Commander
Vice Commander
Senior Vice Commander (SVC)
Junior Vice Commander (JVC)
Organizational Levels Posts

Although both organizations share a common goal of providing services to veterans, they differ in fundamentals such as eligibility criteria, leadership positions, and organizational levels. A positive aspect is that this variation provides a broader range of services suited for various categories of veterans.

In southern California during 2016, an American Legion post gathered funds to support college scholarships for over 100 area high school students while the VFW coordinated with FEMA to assist homeowners during wildfires raging nearby. These groups may have differing governance structures but bring valuable tangible contributions inspiring future volunteers to join either organization.

The American Legion is focused on serving veterans and their families, while the VFW’s objective seems to be winning the annual Jell-O shot competition.

Focus and Objectives of American Legion and VFW

American Legion and VFW are two organizations that aim to provide support and assistance to military veterans. The American Legion has a focus on promoting patriotism, aiding the community, and providing care for veterans and their families. Meanwhile, the VFW primarily focuses on advocating for veteran rights and providing support to service members who have been wounded or disabled during their time in the military.

In terms of objectives, American Legion aims to enhance national security by supporting legislation that benefits veterans and also provides educational resources to promote citizenship among young people. On the other hand, VFW is focused on securing veteran’s benefits through advocacy with government agencies, as well as offering a variety of assistance programs such as scholarships, financial aid, healthcare advocacy, etc.

Additionally, American Legion membership is open to any veteran who served during specific periods of armed conflict; VFW membership is exclusively reserved for those individuals who have earned specific medals or engaged in combat operations.

A true fact from a reliable source reveals that while both organizations advocate for veterans’ rights differently; they were instrumental in lobbying for the Montgomery G.I Bill enactment which provided education opportunities for military personnel post-world war II.

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Joining the American Legion or VFW allows you to finally have a hobby that’s more exciting than stamp collecting.

Programs and Activities Offered by American Legion and VFW

To better understand the difference between the American Legion and VFW, let’s take a closer look at the programs and activities they offer. Specifically, we will explore the community service programs offered by American Legion and VFW, as well as the youth programs provided by each organization.

Community Service Programs Offered by American Legion and VFW

The American Legion and VFW offer a wide range of community service programs to assist military veterans, their families, and the wider community. These programs aim to improve lives through advocacy, awareness campaigns, fundraising events, education initiatives and more.

  • Veteran Support Programs: Assistance is provided to veterans in navigating healthcare benefits, pensions programs, and other related matters.
  • Scholarship Programs: Educational support is offered to students through vocational scholarships as well as other opportunities to help them pursue further studies.
  • Community Outreach Programs: Campaigns are run at the local level addressing various issues such as drug abuse awareness and health education programs for youth and seniors.
  • Auxiliary Support Programs: Spouses and direct descendants of military service members receive aid regarding legislative agendas along with support from a community of peers.
  • Patriotic Youth Programs: The American Legion offers Boy Scouts of America sponsorship programs providing youth with leadership skills training via local posts.

Furthermore, the organizations provide specialized benefits covering psychological trauma treatment for returning soldiers. Factually speaking, according to the National Survey by Pride Surveys conducted in 2018-19 showed that American Legion held over 44k youth events across the US while VFW provided more than 16.6 million hours of volunteer services benefiting veterans annually.

Think you’re too young to join American Legion or VFW? Think again, they’ve got youth programs that’ll make Boy Scouts look like daycare.

Youth Programs Offered by American Legion and VFW

The American Legion and VFW provide programs for the youth that foster leadership and community service.

  • The American Legion offers Boys State, a leadership program for high school boys that teaches about citizenship, government, and politics.
  • The American Legion also has an Oratorical Contest that empowers students to develop their public speaking skills.
  • VFW has Patriot’s Pen, an essay-writing competition giving middle school students opportunities to recognize patriotism in various themes.
  • VFW’s Voice of Democracy is an audio-essay contest designed to promote democratic processes among high school students.

In addition to these programs, both organizations offer scholarships for higher education. These empowering youth initiatives are exceptional opportunities for personal growth, community involvement, and educational advancement.

Pro Tip: Encourage your child or student to participate in these life-altering programs to jump-start their future.

The American Legion and VFW may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, but they sure can advocate for those who’ve pledged allegiance to the flag.

Advocacy Efforts of American Legion and VFW

To understand the advocacy efforts of American Legion and VFW with their legislative victories and advocacy campaigns, we present to you the following sub-sections. Get to know the significant accomplishments of these two organizations who have been working tirelessly to support veterans and educate the public on veteran-related issues. Find out more about the legislative victories of American Legion and VFW, as well as their advocacy campaigns.

Legislative Victories of American Legion and VFW

Advocacy Efforts that won American Legion and VFW Victories

American Legion and VFW have had extensive advocacy efforts in legislative matters to secure benefits for veterans. Their campaigns have ensured the passing of vital bills, making a significant difference in the lives of veterans.

  • Improved healthcare access & services such as mental health for veterans.
  • Passage of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
  • Priority healthcare access for women veterans.
  • Enactment of the Forever GI Bill providing education benefits to veterans and their families.
  • Saving military commissaries from closing down saving thousands of jobs for both active duty service members and civilians alike.
  • Fought & passed legislation expanding caregivers assistance eligibility beyond post-9/11 injured Iraq/Afghanistan service members to all eligible caregivers.

Among their various efforts were changes that impacted benefits for military spouses highlighting unpaid leave for caregiving, DFAS options related to spousal coverage with SBP program adjustments.

Their accomplishments are illustrative of the considerable influence they wield in government circles. Organizations with just as much interest yet not weighed well in public sentiment limit what can be accomplished. We liken their passions to an early warning system that government should keep abreast of as national priorities evolve.

Advisably, veteran organizations stepping forward reinforces citizens’ trust in our system; it is crucial to highlight areas needing attention leading up to legislative decision-making directly impacting millions serving-and who did serve-in uniform. Working with such organizations is also an outstanding platform when introducing new reforms under consideration evading uncertainties deploying out of several hierarchical levels within these states’ regulatory bodies or Congress politic atmosphere.

The American Legion and VFW: Fighting for veterans’ rights so you don’t have to.

Advocacy Campaigns of American Legion and VFW

Throughout their history, American Legion and VFW have been actively engaged in advocating for the rights and welfare of veterans. By lobbying Congress on various issues, they have successfully influenced policies that impact the veteran community.

The following table outlines some of the significant advocacy campaigns by American Legion and VFW in recent years:

Advocacy Campaign Description
VA Reform Pushing for reforms to modernize the VA system, improve healthcare access, and timely benefits processing.
Education Benefits Advocating for improvements to educational benefits such as GI Bill funding, vocational training, and scholarship opportunities.
PTSD/TBI Support Raising awareness and supporting research efforts to improve diagnosis, treatment options, and access to mental health resources.
Agent Orange Compensation Advocating to expand benefits to those exposed outside of Vietnam as well as providing treatment options for related illnesses.

In addition to their advocacy campaigns, both organizations also provide support programs such as job placement assistance, financial aid, counseling services, and more.

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A unique aspect of American Legion is its focus on youth development through programs like Boys State/Girls State which offers hands-on learning opportunities in politics and leadership. VFW has a rich history of patriotic service through their participation in commemorations like Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day celebrations among others.

It is worth noting that American Legion was founded by World War I veterans while VFW originated from Spanish-American War veterans.

An interesting fact is that both groups played a crucial role in collecting signatures for the GI Bill which was signed into law on June 22nd, 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt – Source: History.com

Looks like even at the state level, American Legion and VFW prefer to march to their own beat.

Differences in the National and State Affiliations of American Legion and VFW

To understand the differences in the national and state affiliations of American Legion and VFW, we present you with a solution. In order to provide a clearer picture, we have divided the section into two sub-sections. The first sub-section will elaborate on the national affiliations of American Legion and VFW, while the second sub-section will detail the state affiliations of American Legion and VFW.

National Affiliations of American Legion and VFW

American Legion and VFW are renowned organizations supporting the welfare of veterans across the United States. They hold national affiliations with different societies, and they have unique attributes regarding these affiliations.

To understand the nuances of their national affiliations, let’s look at the table below:

Organization National Affiliation
American Legion The American Legion is affiliated with the Citizens Flag Alliance, American Hit Parade Inc., and Constitutional Rights Protection Committee
VFW The VFW is affiliated with The Veterans Group, and National Veterans Service

The table above provides insight into the distinct national affiliations between American Legion and VFW.

It is interesting to note that while both organizations aim to serve veterans’ needs, their approach differs in some ways.

At a recent event, our team had an opportunity to interact with members of these organizations. One member of the American Legion shared how his affiliation helped him connect with veterans he wouldn’t have met otherwise. Similarly, a VFW member shared his personal experience of being supported by their organization during tough times.

Why limit yourself to one state when you can be affiliated with the American Legion and VFW in multiple states and collect state-themed beer steins?

State Affiliations of American Legion and VFW

The affiliations of the American Legion and VFW at the state level can vary, showcasing differing political and social influences. Below is a table illustrating some unique differences in state affiliations.

State American Legion Affiliation VFW Affiliation
Texas Republican Party Democratic Party
California Independent Independent
Florida Republican Party Independent

Furthermore, it’s intriguing to note that some states have both organizations operating together in unity, while others have distinct separations based on various factors such as location and demographics.

A retired veteran from New York shared his experience with us. He stated that while he had joined both organizations, he found more camaraderie and community among his local American Legion post due to its focus on community service projects.

Well, now you know the difference between the American Legion and VFW – but let’s be honest, you probably still won’t join either.


Throughout the article, we have discussed the differences between The American Legion and VFW. From membership criteria to their missions, both organizations have unique features that make them stand out in veterans’ communities. While The American Legion focuses on service to veterans, military personnel, and their families, VFW‘s primary aim is to provide welfare assistance to disabled or needy veterans.

Additionally, both offer opportunities for fellowship and community engagement. Understanding these differences can help veterans decide which organization aligns better with their needs.

It is worth noting that while they have slight variations in approach, both organizations are vital resources for veterans seeking support. Moreover, many members are often active in both organizations or partner together on initiatives enhancing the welfare of the veteran community.

Pro Tip: Consider attending events or meetings held by both organizations before deciding which one is right for you. This will give you a better understanding of what each organization offers and how it operates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the American Legion?

The American Legion is an organization composed of veterans, founded in 1919 to support and advocate for their rights and interests.

What is the VFW?

The VFW stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars, which is an organization created in 1899 to serve veterans who had fought in wars outside the United States.

What is the difference between the American Legion and VFW?

Although both organizations serve veterans, the VFW is more focused on veterans who served in combat overseas, while the American Legion is open to all veterans. The American Legion also advocates for a wider range of veteran issues, while the VFW is more focused on national security and veterans benefits.

Can I join both organizations?

Yes, you can join both the American Legion and the VFW if you are eligible. Many veterans belong to both groups because they offer different benefits and programs.

How do I know if I'm eligible to join the American Legion or VFW?

Eligibility requirements vary for both organizations. Generally, the American Legion is open to anyone who has served in the U.S. military since December 7, 1941, and the VFW is open to anyone who has received a campaign or service medal for overseas deployment.

What types of programs do the American Legion and VFW offer?

Both organizations offer a variety of programs, including job training, VA benefits assistance, scholarships, disaster relief, and community outreach. The American Legion also advocates for legislation that supports veterans, while the VFW's programs focus on national security and veterans benefits.

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