Keystone State Takes on Stolen Valor

Stolen Valor is something that gets under the skin of any true veteran, but there is generally little that can be done other than making a YouTube video. Now, at least in Pennsylvania, you can call a cop.

On June 27th Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed into law Act 9, making it a state crime to fraudulently represent yourself as a veteran. In campaigning for this bill legislative sponsors called it an important means of protecting benefits for true veterans. What it really protects is common decency.

Pennsylvania has a long, proud history when it comes to America’s veterans. Valley Forge was the winter quarters for Washington’s Continental Army. Washington also crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to attack Hessian forces in Trenton, N.J. Gettysburg was not only one of the Civil War’s deadliest battles, but also the turning point for the Union forces. The list goes on.

Today Pennsylvania is home to over 900,000 veterans and has decided protecting those heroes is worth of the legislature’s time. For many years the Keystone State has had laws on the books to address some aspects of faking veteran status:

1. Wearing a uniform, decoration insignia or other distinctive emblems of any branch of the armed forces “for the purpose of obtaining aid, profit or while soliciting contributions or subscriptions – Summary Offense.

2. Knowingly and without authority wear, exhibit, display or use for any purpose any military or veteran insignia- Summary Offense.

3. Knowingly and without authority purchase, sell offer for sale or accept as pledge or pawn any medal, insignia or decoration granted for service in the armed forces – Misdemeanor.

With the signing of Act 9, it is now a misdemeanor to receive or attempt to receive money, benefits or other opportunities by impersonating a member of the military or someone who received a service medal.

But why did Pennsylvania need its own Stolen Valor Act? Isn’t the Federal Stolen Valor Act enough?

Honestly, no the Federal Stolen Valor Act is not enough. Not because it is not well intended but because of the nature of Federal law enforcement. First, there are not enough investigators to address every suspected case. Second, prosecutors are also forced to be selective in their efforts and are forced to focus only on cases of the highest profile, with the best chance of success.

Pennsylvania saw a gap that needed to be closed and felt it was necessary to protect many benefits the Federal authorities were not interested in addressing. Many counties have instituted “Veterans Court”, were former service members are offered alternative punishment/treatment for non-violent crimes. As in most states, many local businesses offer veteran discounts AND the state know allows citizens to add an American Flag to driver licenses to designate veteran status. The state also offers to hire preference to veterans. After numerous cases of non-veterans attempting to claim such benefits authorities decided it was time to do something on a local level.

Act 9 may not be perfect, and it certainly will not stop every poser, but it is a strong first step in ensuring veterans feel welcome and protected in the Keystone State.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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