Proposal Penalizes Those Who Falsely Present Themselves As Military Service Veterans For Personal Gain

Public Hearing Scheduled For 7 p.m. May 15


New City, NY (May 11, 2018) – A local law proposed by Legislator Alden H. Wolfe would penalize those pass themselves off as veterans or decorated veterans for personal gain.

The proposed law, the Jerry Donnellan Theft of Valor Prevention Act, would carry the potential of financial penalties and up to one year of imprisonment on a third or subsequent violation.

A public hearing on the proposed new law is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, in the Legislature’s Chambers in the Allison-Parris County Office Building, 11 New Hempstead Road in New City.

“It is simply wrong for a person who never served our country to put on a uniform and pretend they are an actual serviceman or woman or a veteran,” Legislator Wolfe said. “It is even more despicable to add combat badges and military decorations such as a Purple Heart – which is only awarded to those wounded or killed while serving – to a military uniform when they were not earned.

“This law would penalize these practices when they are done for personal gain,” Legislator Wolfe said. “The only people who should be recognized, honored and rewarded for their service and their sacrifices in defense of our country are those who have actually earned it.”

Across the country, there have been numerous confirmed reports of what has become known as “theft of valor,” and the embellishment of service records or outright fake claims of service have extended from the highest ranking elected officials to everyday citizens.

President Reagan in 1983 said he filmed Nazi death camps even though he never left the U.S. while serving in the Army during World war II. Then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2008 said he served in Vietnam even though he never left the U.S.

Valor is defined as having great determination and even boldness in the face of tremendous danger and conflict. Those who have demonstrated valor in the field often faced overwhelming odds but through sheer determination and courage persevered.

Most thefts of valor are done by everyday people, and there are dozens of news stories and videos on the internet that show some of the imposters being called out not only by the public, but by actual veterans.

A bill to address the issue on the state level passed the state Senate in 2017, but failed in the Assembly. A new version is now in the Senate, but has already died in the Assembly.

On the federal level, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 and made it a crime for a person to fraudulently claim they received a valor award with the intention of obtaining money, property, or another tangible benefit.

A previous version was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court after it ruled the arrest and prosecution of a man for wearing unearned military awards, who did so without criminal intent, violated his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The proposed Rockland law would be enforced by the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department, which would be required to seek a discharge from active duty form – a DD 214 – prior to filing any charges against a person.

The law would be named after former Rockland County Veterans Service Agency Director Jerry Donnellan, a Vietnam veteran who was wounded in action and received three Purple Hearts after being shot twice and wounded by a grenade. Donnellan worked tirelessly to improve the lives of veterans in Rockland County, joining the county Veterans Service Agency in 1988 and becoming its Commissioner in 1992. He died March 23.

Legislator Wolfe said MariEllyn Dykstra supports naming the new law in honor of her late husband.

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