ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.Courtesy Kai Porter KOB 4– The 2018 legislative session is less than two weeks away and for the first time a bill being introduced aims to prevent stolen valor in New Mexico.
House Bill 67 would make it illegal for anyone to pretend to be in the military or a veteran in order to receive anything of value in our state.
State Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, said he’s sponsoring House Bill 67 after experiencing stolen valor personally. Wooley, himself Vietnam War vet, said a young man claiming to be a veteran recently asked him for food and gas money at the VA Hospital.
“I started asking him some questions about who he was and where he served and when and didn’t think the answers he gave me were appropriate,” he said. “So I called up to the office of the administrator there and turned out they had no record of this young man even being a veteran. So he actually tried to scam me at the VA Hospital.”
Wooley said there’s already a Stolen Valor Act that President Barack Obama signed in 2013 for federal purposes, and 26 other states have stolen valor laws on the books.
“There are people that actually represent they’re veterans themselves to go to the VA to get medical services and to get payment for benefits,” Wooley said.
If Wooley’s bill passes, it would make impersonating a military member or a veteran a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. It would also apply to any panhandlers pretending to have military service.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to go out and question every panhandler on the street but I have no doubt there are many of them who aren’t veterans, and everyone you see has a sign that says, ‘I’m a veteran; please help,'” Wooley said.
The 2018 Legislative Session begins Jan. 16.
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