Applications Open for 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship

Opportunity allows 10 student veteran VFW members to address issues directly with Congress

WASHINGTON (July 31, 2019) – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Student Veterans of America (SVA) are now accepting applications from student veterans who are interested in participating in the upcoming 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship program. The fellowship, now in its sixth year, will bring up to 10 student veterans – who must be VFW members – to Washington early next March to meet face-to-face with their members of Congress and senior policy makers.

Student veterans interested in applying for the 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship must complete an application package that includes a 1,500-word or less essay that proposes legislative improvements to one of the following four specific veterans’ issues:

  • Student veteran success on campus and beyond;
  • Improving veteran’s health care and benefits;
  • Transition from military to civilian life; or
  • Challenges for service members and military families.

The essay proposal should include a discussion of why the issue is important to the veterans’ community, and how the fellowship candidate plans to address the issue through federal policy solutions and community-based advocacy.

VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship opportunities are open to all currently-enrolled student veterans. Fellowship candidates must be VFW members in order to be considered, the eligibility criteria for which can be found here. Selected fellows will be flown to Washington, D.C., to ensure the veterans’ voice is delivered to Capitol Hill alongside 500 fellow veterans’ advocates as part of the upcoming VFW Legislative Conference, March 1-5, 2020.

“The VFW’s advocacy efforts have led to the creation of every significant veteran and military quality of life program in this century and last,” said new VFW National Commander William J. “Doc” Schmitz. “The VFW is proud to continue sharing these opportunities with a new generation of veteran leaders through our strong partnership with SVA, which over the past five fellowship classes has produced positive legislative changes for our unique community.” 

“Given our ongoing collaboration to advocate for empowering policies, we’re excited to continue our partnership with the VFW to provide student veterans with the chance to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill,” said SVA President and CEO Jared Lyon. “This important program gives student veterans the opportunity to highlight policy ideas that support our military, our families, and our veterans. We look forward to welcoming our 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellows to our nation’s capital.”

All applications must be submitted by close-of-business Sept. 30. Selected fellows will be notified before Thanksgiving, with a formal announcement of the 2020 fellowship class at the SVA National Conference in Los Angeles, Calif., in January. For full details about the VFW-SVA fellowship and to apply, visit

Past fellows have earned academic credit, found internships, accepted additional academic opportunities, and landed fulltime employment as a result of their fellowship experience. Several fellows have even had their research integrated into laws, which makes an everlasting impact on veterans, service members and their families.

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is another example of the strong collaboration between VFW and SVA that resulted from a memorandum of understanding signed by the two organizations at SVA’s 2013 National Conference.

VFW Snaps 27-Year Membership Decline

Programs and services needed just as much now as they were then

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 16, 2019) – The 120-year-young Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States just added almost 25,000 members to snap a 27-year decline in membership.

America’s largest and oldest war veterans’ organization began its new membership year earlier this month with almost 1.165 million members, a million less than its peak in 1992, yet significant nonetheless, according to VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who attributes the growth to the organization being more visible on the national scene as well as in more than 6,000 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and 11 foreign countries. 

“The VFW is making a difference in the lives of countless others every day, and thanks to the power of social media and the internet, more people are taking notice and wanting to be part of our team,” said Lawrence. 

“The internet allows us to share our story of service to others, and social media allows us to engage not only with our members but with potential members, advocates and their families,” he explained. “More people are learning about VFW’s service work, which last year helped 526,000 veterans and transitioning service members to recoup more than $8.3 billion in disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are learning about VFW’s legislative advocacy, which directly benefits all 22 million veterans and military service members, and which has produced the Forever G.I. Bill for our newest generation of warriors, the Blue Water Navy Act for Vietnam veterans, and will soon eliminate the ‘Widow’s Tax’ that is financially penalizing some 65,000 surviving family members of all generations. And they are learning about VFW programs, which range from volunteerismyouth scholarship competitions and student veteran scholarships to financial grants and military unit sponsorships,” he said.

“The VFW is all about service to others,” said Lawrence. “That’s what our founders envisioned when they birthed the organization in 1899, and that’s what they made a certainty in 1919 when the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to open an office in our nation’s capital to petition our government for veterans’ rights and to ensure our government delivered. The decision to open the VFW Washington Office one century ago this year was the direct result of World War I veterans returning to the same government neglect as VFW’s founders encountered two decades earlier.

“Thanks to a robust membership and a 120-year relevance that spans generations, the VFW will continue to make a difference in the lives of others every day, because the programs and services we provide are needed just as much now as they were then,” he said.

To learn more about the VFW or to join, go to

VFW members pictured left to right: Nick Lopez of VFW Post 6603; Tara Fajardo Arteaga of Post 7356; Mary Spencer of Post 56; Chris Johnson of Post 56; and Chris Cormier of Post 56.


National Convention Patriotic Parade

Dear 2019-20 Department Commander,

In preparation for the VFW Patriotic Celebration on Tuesday, July 23, with parade formation starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center,

All participants, including your color guard which are welcome, but not mandatory, are requested to be in position on Tuesday, July 23, by 5:30 p.m., in the designated area in Hall WE2 for the lineup.

(We highly encourage dressing “Patriotic.”)

The parade order is based on the membership numerical gain or loss of your Department as of June 30, 2019. There will be a sign with your state’s name on it located in the assembly area, Tuesday, July 23, 5:30 p.m., indicating your department’s position in the Patriotic March.  

General VFW Patriotic March Rules

  1. All persons are requested to be in position by 5:30 p.m. in the staging area
  2. In order to meet a set time schedule, the march must start at 6:30 p.m.
  3. Distance between each unit is approximately 20 paces.
  4. The Department Commander and President will pass in review. Parade will be reviewed by the Commander-in-Chief and National President.
  5. Have fun!!!

If you have any questions concerning the Patriotic March, contact me at VFW National Headquarters via 816.968.1116 or


Lynn W. Rolf, III

Director of Programs

Blue Water Navy Act Now Law!

VFW-championed legislation will benefit tens of thousands of veterans and dependent children

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) – The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the president for signing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law last night.

“Tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War and dependent children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s toxic exposure will now benefit from this new law,” exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, “and the VFW is proud to have helped lead the charge to return these benefits to these deserving veterans and to expand existing benefits to dependent children. We look forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs publishing implementation guidance on their website very soon.”

The VFW-championed Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, or H.R. 299, restores VA benefits to thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after arbitrary regulatory changes. It benefits veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving along the Korean DMZ with an earlier start date to encompass the timeframe when various defoliants were tested — to Sept. 1, 1967, instead of April 1, 1968 — and expands benefits to children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure in Thailand, coverage that already exists for the children of Vietnam and Korean DMZ veterans. The new law also requires the VA to report on research being conducted on a broad range of conditions possibly related to service in Southwest Asia, which is important for future legislative efforts to create a list of presumptive conditions for veterans seeking VA health care and benefits.

“The VFW is proud of the 116th Congress for ending this benefits inequity, and we salute President Trump for quickly signing H.R. 299 into law,” said Lawrence.

Though the following VA webpages have yet to updated to reflect the new law, veterans and their families can learn more about benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure here, and about spina bifida birth defects related to exposure here. For assistance in filing claims, find an accredited VFW service officer here.


Photos of Service

Dear VFW leaders,

We need your help! We would like to create a slideshow featuring photos of our members during their time in uniform.

Please send your photos for inclusion in this special project to by July 9. (Any hard copy photos mailed in to the headquarters will not be accepted or returned.)

Please also share this information with your respective members.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.


VFW Communications

VFW National Headquarters

406 W. 34th Street

Kansas City, Missouri 64111


Legislative Update June 2019

National Priorities

 Blue Water Navy bill passed house May 19 HR 299, push

Senate to approve. Call Senator Schumer, 202-224-6542 and

Senator Gillibrand 202-224-4451 to voice support

Veterans Health Care–to aggressively oversee implementation

of VA Mission Act of 2018- concern over proposal to impose $30

Copay for Emergency service visits even for Service Connected


  • Resource suicide prevention and outreach
  • Require VA to conduct research on Medical Cannibis
  • Expand peer to peer for MST
  • Remove Copay for preventive medication
  • Pass S514 the Deborah Sampson Act to improve health care for woman vets
  • Expand eligibility for VA nurse homes for all VA enrolled

Burn Pits –  Pass legislation to require better Airborne and open burn pit registry

  • Provide Iraq and Afghanistan vets benefits and care for pulmonary conditions
  • Pass HR 663/s191, Burn pit accountability act
  • Establish and fund research on the impact of burn pits on exposed vets

Concurrent Receipt – Pass HR 303 or S208 to allow disabled vets to receive retirement pay and VA disability compensation

  • Pass HR 553, Military surviving Spouse equity act to allow survivors full retirement pay

Transition – Reopen TAP in the community programs

  • Provide grants for private organizations for jobs
  • Open pathways for vets to connect with community, vet organizations in hometowns while still on AD

State of NY Priorities Budgetary

1.Continue funding of VFW Service Officers $125K per year and add $500K for additional SOs  2019 results-VFW received up to $125K

  1. Dwyer Peer to Peer mentoring $3.5M for upstate counties and add $4M for downstate 2019 Results – Dwyer program funding continues at same level as previously but will be spread out throughout the state
  2. Veterans Defense Program, $500K to cover existing veterans defense and add $400K for Defense Counselors practice manual 2019 Results – VDP funding continues at existing level but $220K added to open a Long Island Office
  3. Continue funding for Office of court administration to support vet mentors in existing 30 VTCs and advance the number of VTCs to all counties 2019 Results – no funding for VTC Mentors at this point but on the legislative side, legislation passed house to have VTC available in all counties. A 5937

Legislative Goals –

  1. Vet peer to peer certification option and add centers for women veterans one upstate and one downstate

Support A2945 Ortiz, in Vet affairs and S4261 Parker in Vet and military affairs as amended by the VFW

  1. Child custody considerations for NY military, Support S 5543 Brooks in children and families, need assembly bill to follow established Federal military standards for Family Care Plan via NY Statute to provide reference for Family Courts
  2. Property Tax reductions for Active Duty Service Members,

 Support S2930A Brooks Passed Senateand A5344A (In Vet Committee) Cusick to allow real property to recognize active duty military so they can apply for property tax reductions (As currently written would only cover those in Combat zone)

  1. Fill Currently allocated civil service jobs for disabled vets, support S3300(Passed Senate) Brooks, 2019 and A6297(Passed House)Barrett to require state agencies to identify when posting jobs that fall under the 55C program as 55C Eligible.
  2. Modernize charitable gaming to better enable self-funding of service organizations, reintroduce A7307 Cusick 2018 in racing and wagering, to allow Charity poker fundraising, S3301 (Passed Senate) Brooks
  3. Modernize bell Jars to enable better self-funding and encourage younger members to join, Support S6284 Addabbo in rules, and support A4697 Pretlow amended and in racing and wagering and continue to work with Governor’s office to overcome recent veto. (After multiple meetings with Governor’s Staff this remains held up so is about to be reintroduced with amendments from the VFW)