HARRISBURG – A bill introduced by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, that would make it a crime for Pennsylvania motorists to falsely claim “veteran” status on their driver’s license application won unanimous approval in the Senate on Tuesday and sent to the House for its consideration.
Senate Bill 42 mirrors Senate Bill 1405 of last session, which passed the full Senate unanimously but failed to win enactment before the session ended.
The legislation addresses concerns raised after a new state law allowed veterans to obtain an honorary designation on their driver’s license. Long sought by veterans’ groups, the designation makes it easier to identify current and former members of the military for many discounts, programs and services.
While the Commonwealth designed the self-certification process to be simple for veterans — especially older veterans who may not have easy access to the internet or their formal discharge papers — some veterans expressed concern that it was too easy for someone to falsely claim veteran status.
“Although the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs checks a percentage of applicants who self-certify as a veteran, it appears that an additional deterrent is needed,” Baker said. “We aim to honor veterans without providing an easy avenue for the unscrupulous to steal the valor of those who have worn the uniform with pride.”
“Unfortunately, we constantly become aware of individuals who feel compelled to fabricate military service, for reasons of ego and advantage,” Baker said in remarks delivered on the Senate floor. “This despicable practice has come to be called stolen valor. The risk of public humiliation does not seem to be enough deterrent.”
As cases of Stolen Valor mount nationwide, Baker said the legislation protects the honor of being a veteran.
Reflecting penalties for “unsworn falsification to authorities,” the bill would set the penalty for misrepresentation at $300, or between 30 and 90 days in prison if the fine goes unpaid.
“My bill is designed to deter fraud and protect the ‘veteran’ label for those genuine American heroes who have earned our gratitude and secured our freedom through their service and sacrifice,” Baker said. “Falsely posing as a veteran is an affront to all those who served and sacrificed. This fraud is also an affront to the taxpayers sustaining the programs and services our veterans have earned through their devotion to duty.”
Andrew M. Seder