In the preamble to its National Constitution the purpose of the JWV is stated:
The JWV is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The JWV is organized into, in descending order of rank, a National Convention, a National Executive Committee, departments, district or county councils, and posts. There are also subsidiary organizations, including the Ladies Auxiliary, posts or other echelons created outside the United States, and any other subsidiary organizations established by a two-thirds vote of the National Executive Committee.
The National Convention is the annual assembly of the JWV, in which "supreme power" is vested in. The National Convention usually takes place over a week in a major U.S. city determined by the National Executive Committee. The 113th Annual National Assembly in 2008, for example, will take place from August 10-17 in Pittsburgh. Membership at National Conventions is restricted to voting members of the National Executive Committee who shall vote at the same time with their posts and delegates. Each post may send up to one delegate and one alternate for each ten members.
The leader of the JWV, the National Commander, is elected at each National Convention, serving a term beginning with the adjournment of the National Convention and ending with the adjournment of the next National Convention. If a vacancy occurs in the office of National Commander, it is filled by election by the National Executive Committee, and the chairman of the National Executive Committee acts as National Commander until such election, to be held at the next National Executive Committee meeting or within 60 days, whichever occurs first. No person is allowed to succeed himself or herself to the office of National Commander, except when the U.S. is at war.
Additionally, in any Department consisting of 10 or more posts, no two members of the same post may serve at the same time as an elected National Executive committeeman. National Executive Committeemen serve one-year terms commencing with the adjournment.
Membership eligibility is established in the JWV's National Constitution, which lists the forms of membership as active, associate, honorary, in-service, posthumous, life, and distinguished life, and provides that "No person who promotes, or is a member of any organization or group which believes in, or advocates, bigotry or the overthrow of the United States government by force of arms or subversion" shall be eligible for membership.
Active membership may be granted to "any person of the Jewish faith of good character" who is a U.S. citizen and was an active duty member of the U.S. military (including the National Guard and Reserves) in or during any war, campaign, or conflict. The National Constitution also requires that members to have not been discharged under any conditions other than honorable.
Associate membership may be conferred on any Jew and U.S. citizen who does not qualify for active membership but who did either serve in wartime in a military allied to the United States and have been honorably discharged, or served in the U.S. military but not in wartime. The Constitution establishes that associate members are entitled to all the rights and privileges of active members except the right to act as a delegate of any echelon.
Life members are equivalent to active members but have no obligation to pay dues. Distinguished life veterans are those that are otherwise eligible to active or associate membership and are certified by the National Executive Director as a "service-connected paraplegic, a double amputee, or is suffering from a service connected total blindness." Like life members, distingushed life veterans are equivalent to active or associate members but have no obligation to pay dues.
Posthumous membership may be granted with the written consent of the next of kin of a Jewish member of the armed forces, of the Jewish faith who died while in the service. In-service membership may be granted to any Jew and American citizen of good character serving in active duty in the U.S. military. In-service members are exempt from dues.
Honorary membership may be conferred upon those ineligible for active membership who have "performed distinguished or faithful service for the United States of America, or for this Organization," and may be conferred only by the National Convention, "after investigation and report received from a Committee designated by the National Executive Committee."
Each year the JWV holds a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery commemorating Orde Wingate, a major general in the British Army and Zionist. The JWV also holds Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, as well as Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial programs, as well as programs for Vietnam veterans.
The JWV also actively supports women in the military.
The organization sponsors, in cooperation with the Department of Defense, a "Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust" observance on military installations during the week coinciding with Yom HaShoah.
The JWV administers a JWV National Reward Fund, which offers rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who have perpetrated antisemitic and other hate crimes and presents about 30 engraved Kiddush cups to Jewish graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, and U.S. Air Force Academy each year,
The JWV also runs anti-substance abuse programs, a disaster relief fundraising and volunteer program, and a National Stamp Distribution Program for "hospitalized veterans, shut-ins, and school-age children.