‘Stolen valor’ bill proposed

An individual who fraudulently claims to be an active member or veteran of the U.S. military with the intent to benefit from that impersonation would face penalties under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee March 2.

Sen. Ben Hansen
Sen. Ben Hansen

Under LB990, introduced by Blair Sen. Ben Hansen, an individual would commit the offense of “stolen valor” if he or she fraudulently represents as an active member or veteran of the U.S. military with the intent to obtain money, property or other benefit through use of unauthorized military regalia or falsified military identification.

An individual who falsely claims to be a recipient of a military award also would commit the offense of stolen valor. Violation of the bill’s provisions would be a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

Hansen said that for veterans and active military members, service to their country is their life.

“Unfortunately, there are those that falsely claim that they are a part of this elite group with the intent to benefit in some way … they ride on the coattails of others’ bravery in search of recognition they don’t deserve,” he said.

Hansen brought an amendment to the hearing that would clarify language and require an individual who is found guilty of committing criminal impersonation by stolen valor to make restitution payments.

In support of the bill was Air Force veteran Kevin Willis. Several states already have adopted stolen valor laws, he said, and LB990 would hold accountable individuals who choose to “trample” the uniform.

“There are those in this state who have benefited from pretending to serve or claiming to have served in our armed forces,” Willis said. “They dress the part, often wearing medals, ribbons and insignias to bolster their claim in order to obtain money, property or some material gain.”

Greg Holloway of the Nebraska Veterans Council, a recipient of several Purple Heart awards, also spoke in support. A Purple Heart award is given to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed while serving in the line of duty.

“The cost of these awards and decorations are high and they are emotional,” he said. “Someone using them in vain affects us all.”

No one testified in opposition to LB990 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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