by Charles M. Pickett
“It is imperative that we verify the eligibility of every member that signs up for the VFW, not only to comply with our Bylaws but also to maintain the integrity of the organization” (Veterans of Foreign Wars Eligibility Worksheet)
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is an exclusive veteran service organization. Membership is spelled out in Sec. 230103 of our Congressional Charter and detailed on the VFW National Website (Eligibility – VFW). The updated Eligibility Worksheet (PDF) is the current “go to” reference document.
But sometimes, ineligible people make it into our ranks through a number of factors (malfeasance, indifference, incompetence, etc.).
Typically, the “proof of service to establish eligibility for membership” is available through a veteran’s DD-214. According the the VFW National Bylaws and Manual of Procedure, “Proof of service to establish eligibility for membership rests with the applicant. The Post is responsible for assuring the eligibility of every member accepted to membership” (58).
That said, there are three instances when post leadership will make sure or certain, assuring someone is eligible for the VFW and request “proof of service to establish eligibility for membership”:
- New Member Applications (Post Reviewing Committee)
- The original VFW Membership Application of every member will be retained on file with the Adjutant (63).
- NOTE: There is no requirement in the VFW bylaws about keeping a copy of the proof of eligibility on file for non-officers.
- NOTE: The IRS requires “Dates of Service” (that is total military service–start to finish–not just deployed) to be on file should the IRS perform a membership audit. This was a big issue in 2013 with some Legion posts being fined $1,000 a day for not supplying DD-214s during reviews of their tax-exempt statuses. That documentation policy has changed and a “Dates of Service” field is on the Membership Application.
- Post-to-Post Transfers (Post Reviewing Committee)
- Transfers must complete a fresh VFW Membership Application and a Member Declaration (64) and both of those will be retained on file with the Adjutant.
- All elected and appointed post officers (Post Adjutant)
- The Adjutant must keep “a file containing a copy of the proof of eligibility submitted by officers pursuant to Section 216.”
Without going into detail, our post has rejected a few transfer requests because there was no submitted proof of service or the submitted proof did not establish eligibility for membership. This means another VFW post elected ineligible people into our ranks. If a transfer request is submitted with no documentation and the person submitting it balks at supplying evidence of service, THIS IS A RED FLAG.
Post Adjutants, Quartermasters, and Reviewing Committees can avoid lawsuits and recriminations later by enforcing the standard now.
“PROOF OF ELIGIBILITY” REFERENCES IN VFW PODIUM EDITION (2023)
- Sec. 215 – Eligibility to Office: All members shall be eligible to hold any office in the Post provided that proof of eligibility has been submitted and verified by the Post Commander and Adjutant prior to the installation (15).
- Manual of Procedure, Article I – Members, Sec. 101 – Eligibility: ELIGIBILITY GUIDE: Proof of service to establish eligibility for membership rests with the applicant. The Post is responsible for assuring the eligibility of every member accepted to membership (58).
- Sec. 102 – Applications – Affiliation of New Members: Proof of service to establish eligibility for membership rests with the applicant. The Post is responsible for assuring the eligibility of every member accepted to membership (63).
- Sec. 103 – Election: An applicant may be recommended after eligibility has been fully determined by the Post Reviewing Committee (63).
- Sec. 107 – Transfers. A member may transfer from one Post to another Post provided the following conditions are met:
- 1) Completion of the application as prescribed in Section 102 of the Manual of Procedure.
- 2) Signing the Member Declaration as stated below.
- 3) Acceptance by the Post (64).
- Sec. 108 – Challenging Members Eligibility: A Post shall, upon motion duly passed at any regular or special meeting called for such purpose, challenge the eligibility of an individual member. The challenged member shall be notified within five (5) days of such action by certified or registered mail addressed to the member’s last known address, at which time they shall have fifteen (15) days to provide proof of eligibility to the Post Adjutant for disposition. If proof of eligibility cannot be established the member’s application and proof of service shall be submitted to the Department Commander for review and disposition (64-65).
- Sec. 216 – Elected and Appointed Officers; Chairmen and Committees. Post officers, elected and appointed, shall submit proof of eligibility to the Post Adjutant. Post officers shall not be installed or assume the duties of their office until proof of eligibility has been submitted and properly reviewed. Such proof of eligibility shall be open to and reviewed by the Commander, Adjutant and Quartermaster prior to installation to office. In the event an elected or appointed officer fails to submit proof of eligibility within thirty (30) days of election or appointment, any right of the officer to hold the office shall be forfeited, the office declared vacant and the eligibility qualifications of such officer shall be questioned in accordance with the provisions of Section 108 of the National Bylaws. (72).
- Sec. 218 – Officers and Chairmen, Duties and Obligations. (a) Officers. (6) Adjutant. D, 5: A file containing a copy of the proof of eligibility submitted by officers pursuant to Section 216.
“Veterans of Foreign Wars Eligibility Worksheet.” Eligibility – VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 25 Aug. 2022, https://vfworg-cdn.azureedge.net/-/media/VFWSite/Files/Join/One-PageEligibilitySheet.pdf?la=en&v=1&d=20181106T204234Z.
2023 Podium Edition: Congressional Charter, Bylaws, Manual of Procedure, Ritual. Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, 20 Aug. 2022.