WESTFIELD – In state Rep. John Velis’s first full-term at the post, he has drawn national attention with his proposed Stolen Valor bill, which would make misrepresentation of a serviceman or woman for financial gain a misdemeanor.
Velis, a captain of the U.S. Army Reserves and having served in Afghanistan, said that misrepresenting someone who has served the United States is something that cannot be tolerated in any capacity.
“There are just certain areas that are so sacred that you can’t allow people to distort them,” Velis said. “To try to misrepresent that you served in the armed services for financial gain is about as morally repugnant as you can get.”
The bill, proposed earlier this year, goes a step further than a similar bill passed by the federal government. President Barack Obama signed the federal Stolen Valor Act into law in 2013. The act makes it a federal crime for people to wrongly identify themselves as the recipient “of any of several specified military decorations or honors with the intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefit,” according to the White House’s announcement of the signing.
Velis said that, though a strong start, this did not go far enough.
“My bill fills this void … it does not matter that you did not say you won a medal. If you misrepresent a service member, that is enough,” Velis said.
Velis appeared on the Fox News show “America’s News Headquarters” on March 28 to discuss his proposed bill and has seen support on both sides of the aisle in the Commonwealth.
“There are 54 cosponsors, both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. I would consider that overwhelming support because there are so many bills out there. To get 54 [cosponsors] speaks volumes,” he said.
Velis said veterans from all over have been reaching out to thank him, giving examples of times that they encountered the kind of stolen valor that the bill addresses.
The bill is still being discussed in the Judiciary Committee, and if it is sent from committee, Velis hopes the Stolen Valor bill sees a vote within months, Velis said.
“It’s a slap in the face to service members and the family of service members … that’s why I felt there was a special need to fill that void in the federal law,” Velis said. “Massachusetts is without question, one of the most pro-veteran states in the nation, so who better than us to lead the pack on this?”
To read the full-text of the Stolen Valor bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H1641.