SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There’s a strong western Massachusetts connection to a proposed law that would make it a crime to impersonate an active military member or veteran for financial gain.
State Rep. John Velis of Westfield, who is a veteran, is the lead sponsor for the Stolen Valor Act. He told 22News, “The bill means the world to me. This bill is very personal to me. It’s about representing the integrity and honor of veterans.”
Both the state House and Senate passed the bill that now awaits the governor’s signature. It would protect the almost 400,000 veterans living in Massachusetts.
Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe said we need to protect our servicemen; “Integrity is so important and I think our country has such great empathy for our veterans. We know there are people in all walks of life that will try to take advantage. We see it every day.”
In 2013, President Obama signed a similar law that made it illegal for someone to claim rights to a military medal, they didn’t earn, for financial gain.
Brian Willette, a veteran, said he’s disgusted that someone would try to impersonate a veteran; “It’s very important to us that the persons who won those valor awards is the person wearing those valor awards.”
Another bill awaiting the governor’s signature would provide free access to state parks for Purple Heart recipients and their families.
Once signed into law, Massachusetts would have the strongest Stolen Valor Law in the nation.