Roach bill makes it illegal to pose as military person

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 5861, which makes it illegal to impersonate active or retired military personnel for personal gain or to facilitate any unlawful activity.

Sen. Pam Roach (R-31st District), the bill's prime sponsor and chair of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee, wanted to protect the status and honor given to veterans.

"This bill relates to the fact that there are, unfortunately, those in our communities who might for their own personal advantages or monetary gain impersonate a veteran," Roach said. "This is a serious problem that needs to be fixed."

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

"Many people have strong feelings about supporting and honoring our veterans," Roach said. "They've gone to war. They've fought for our freedoms. This is the least we can do for them."

Roach 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.

If signed into law, the Veteran Affairs hospitals, cities and veterans groups will be able to stop the misuse of the veteran title.

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