Back in November we brought you the story of a fake Veteran being confronted in a mall by a real Veteran, Ryan Burke. We posted this video to our YouTube channel and it went viral, getting more than two million views in a few days, this video is below:
The video was picked up by almost every major news agency, and it also caught the attention of many lawmakers, including New Jersey Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo. Mr. Mazzeo, after viewing the video, went to work on introducing a new bill he dubbed the “New Jersey Stolen Valor Act”.
It was Introduced in the Senate on 15 January 2105, Referred to Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Bill Title: New Jersey Stolen Valor Act; makes unauthorized use of military uniforms, medals or insignias, and certain false statements regarding receipt of military awards with intent to obtain benefit crimes of third degree.
The bill is being sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
This bill would make the knowing misrepresentation of oneself as a veteran or member of the military for the purpose of obtaining money, property or another benefit by wearing the uniform or any medal or insignia authorized for use by the members or veterans of the United Armed Forces or the organized militia a crime of the third degree, with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. At present, State law makes it a crime of the fourth degree to knowingly present oneself as a veteran or a member of the military with the intent to deceive, but not necessarily for the purpose of obtaining any kind of benefit, by wearing a military uniform or medal or insignia.
Additionally, this bill would make false statements regarding oneself as a recipient of any decoration or medal of the United States Armed Forces or organized militia for the purpose of obtaining money, property or another benefit a crime of the third degree, with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. State law does not presently prohibit false statements of military or veteran status.
Federal law prohibits both the unauthorized wearing of a military uniform or any distinctive part thereof and false statements as to receipt of military decorations or medals for the purpose of obtaining money, property, or some other tangible benefit.
Any fines collected under this bill would be dedicated to the Military Dependents Scholarship Fund, which would be established by Assembly, No.2489 and Senate, No.1812, currently pending before the Legislature. The fund would provide college scholarships to the spouses and children of those killed, missing in action or disabled in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn. Until such time as the Military Dependents Scholarship Fund is established, any fines collected under this bill would be dedicated to the “NJ National Guard State Family Readiness Council Fund,” to provide assistance to New Jersey National Guard members and their families affected by extended deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This bill, designated as the New Jersey Stolen Valor Act, is in response to individuals attempting to obtain financial or other benefits for themselves by falsely stating or otherwise representing that they have certain military or veteran status. These false representations demean those who have served in the military, and the perpetrators that illegally wear military attire debase military distinctions and awards.
Below is an interview with Vince Mazzeo where he talks about this new bill, and about how the fines would be used to give scholarships to spouses and children of those killed, missing in action or disabled in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn. Until this fund is established, any fines collected under this bill would be dedicated to the “NJ National Guard State Family Readiness Council Fund,” to provide assistance to New Jersey National Guard members and their families affected by extended deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Anyone who attempts to obtain any financial benefit or perks by knowingly lying about their military or veteran status really stoops to a new low,” said Mazzeo . “These examples of Stolen Valor demean those who have served in the military and those who have sacrificed and lost their lives in defense of our nation. It is my hope that this legislation and its harsh penalties will help dissuade anyone from continuing this heinous practice.
Several states already have laws on the books to combat Stolen Valor, New Jersey is just one of a few states that have contacted us to let us know they are pushing similar bills in their respective states.
Here is a link to the bill as it now sits: New Jersey Stolen Valor Act
Marshall Spevak, spokesman for Mr. Mazzeo tells us, “Over the coming weeks Assemblyman Mazzeo is going to be aggressively courting his colleagues in the Legislature to join him in supporting the New Jersey Stolen Valor Act. He is hopeful to have this bill passed by the Legislature in the coming months on behalf of New Jersey’s active duty military and veterans community who has given their all in defense of our great nation.”
We hope other states will follow suit, we will keep you updated on the status of this bill. If you are a resident of New Jersey, reach out to your representatives and ask that they support this bill.