Veteran impersonation bill is signed into law

Veterans gained special protection and help last week when Gov. Gary Locke signed Senate Bill 5861. The bill makes it illegal to impersonate active or retired military personnel for personal gain or to facilitate any unlawful activity.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, was the bill's prime sponsor. The 31st District senator sponsored the bill after speaking with the veteran community. She found there are a high number of panhandlers and others claiming to be veterans.

According to the bill, it would be illegal to claim veterans' preference points or education benefits if the person was not a veteran.

Washington state laws make assuming a false identity or impersonating an individual illegal. These laws are usually applied to those who would impersonate a public servant like a police officer or a nonprofit group with the intent to steal or defraud.

This law will help Veteran Affairs hospitals, cities and veterans groups stop the misuse of the veteran title.

"I have strong feelings about supporting our veterans," Roach said. "Many have gone to war. All have been prepared to defend our freedoms. Protecting their identity is the least we can do for them."

Roach credited veteran Chuck Lawrence, a member of the Green River Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, with providing help in the passage of the bill.

"A few years ago, we started to see a trend of people claiming to be veterans. All of a sudden, we had all these Vietnam veterans who were never there and for many were never in the military," Lawrence said. "They are speaking at events, going to schools and some people are even trying to get veteran benefits. This is a statewide issue that needs to be addressed."

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