Veterans of Foreign Wars was founded in 1899 as a local organization, made up of veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. The organization was founded to secure benefits and rights in return for the veterans' service during the war, as many had been wounded or fallen ill.
Membership in the VFW grew quickly between 1915 and 1936; increasing from 5,000 members to nearly 200,000. The VFW was one of the key contributors to the establishment of the Veterans Administration and the passing of the GI Bill during the 20th and 21st centuries. As of 2015, VFW membership in both its main organization and its auxiliaries numbers at nearly 1.9 million.