Formed in 2018 as a non-for-profit charitable organization under IRS Code 501 (c) (3) and deriving its military legacy from an Act of the 2nd Session of the 50th U.S. Congress (1889), the U.S. VRC draws on a rich military legacy.

Historically, the Veteran Reserve Corps (originally the Invalid Corps) was a military reserve organization created within the Union Army during the American Civil War to allow partially disabled or otherwise infirmed soldiers (or former soldiers) to perform light duty, freeing able-bodied soldiers to serve on the front lines. It existed from 1863 to 1869.

The original corps was organized under authority of General Order No. 105, U.S. War Department, dated April 28, 1863. A similar corps had existed in Revolutionary times. The Invalid Corps of the Civil War period was created to make suitable use, in a military or semi-military capacity, of soldiers who had been rendered unable to actively participate in field service because of wounds or disease contracted in line of duty, or age, but who were still fit for garrison or other light duty, and were, in the opinion of their commanding officers, meritorious and deserving.

The title "Veteran Reserve Corps" was substituted for that of "Invalid Corps" by General Order No. 111, dated March 18, 1864 to include soldiers whose enlistments had expired but wished to continue in uniformed service to their country.

The Federal corps was mostly disbanded in 1866 following the close of the Civil War and the lessening of a need for reserve troops at the time. The reorganization of the Regular Army in July 1866 provided for four regiments of the Veteran Reserve Corps. The Veteran Reserve Corps was emptied of members when these regiments were consolidated with other regiments in the Army's next re-organization in March 1869, but the shell of the organization remains by an act of Congress in 1866.

Drawing on this proud lineage, the U.S. VRC continues this tradition and dedication to a mission to serve in the modern era.