© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Politics & Government

Pretending To Be A Veteran In PA Could Soon Cost You $2,000 Or Jail Time

In Pennsylvania, people who impersonate members of the military or lie about service they didn't do could face fines and up to a year in prison, following the passage of the Stolen Valor Act.

Video footage from 2014 captures a 44-year-old man in what appeared to be an Army uniform at a California airport sipping a drink from Starbucks.

That’s not necessarily a notable incident, but a veteran nearby noticed him and said he “just knew” something wasn’t right, so he alerted an airport police officer. It turned out the man wasn’t an active duty military member and was wearing his stepson’s uniform, which he used to get a discount on his coffee – a federal crime. 

The federal Stolen Valor Act makes it illegal to impersonate a soldier or veteran for personal benefit and now Pennsylvania has its own version of the law. Anyone who falsely presents themselves to be a part of the military for monetary gain could receive a third-degree misdemeanor charge, which could result in jail time and fines of up to $2,000.

Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny), who introduced the bill, said that violation of the law could range from lying to receive health care benefits to obtaining a military job.

"Either using his veteran’s status or falsely claiming to be a veteran," Saccone said. "It would be saying, 'I’m a veteran, I’m trying to raise money for our wounded warriors' and he raises $200,000 and he keeps it."

Saccone said the law protects the state’s more than 300,000 veterans by punishing those who benefit economically from dressing up as a member of the armed services.

"These people serve selflessly and they earn that privilege to become a veteran and to see someone else usurp that privilege that they did not earn, it’s upsetting to them," Saccone said. "There are many sacrifices that go into being a veteran by them and their families"

The 2013 federal Stolen Valor Act specifically covers people who lie about military decorations and awards, like the Congressional Medal of Honors or the Purple Heart. Saccone said he thinks having the state law is important because he doesn't believe a U.S. Attorney would prosecute a stolen valor case, but a state defense attorney is more likely. 

The state law goes into effect in 60 days.

(Photo: Governor Tom Wolf/Flickr)