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November 2017 Column - Theft of Valor Law protects veterans


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oneilj - Posted on 31 October 2017

I am proud to have sponsored the Theft of Valor Law to hold those accountable who pretend to be a veteran or member of the military for personal or financial gain. Those who do so are despicable and take much away from those who earned their rank, medal and/or award.


Since proposing the Erie County Theft of Valor Law, I have heard from numerous veterans who strongly support this law and shared their personal stories about why such a law is meaningful to them at the public hearing held on Oct. 24.


One veteran spoke at this hearing explaining that such a law protects not only current veterans but future veterans as well. It stops imposters from taking benefits and recognition that was neither earned nor awarded. “This law protects those who have so long protected us,” the combat veteran stated. That is exactly the driving force behind this law. We must protect the solider, the veteran, their recognitions and their legacy.


A close friend and decorated US Army veteran also spoke at the public hearing, sharing how his family has personally benefitted from his decades of service. He expressed his gratitude to our country for providing the benefits it does to veterans, saying that for someone to just take that away under false pretenses is not only an abuse of taxpayer money, but it destroys trust, which is invaluable.


Numerous veterans reiterated that this is not a minor problem and should not be taken lightly. My office received reports of individuals canvassing local neighborhoods, professing to be veterans and raising money for Wounded Warriors. These disgraceful people never served our country and were pocketing the donations of unknowing residents. Rest assured that reports of these cases will be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.


A World War II veteran, who is 90 years old, made an effort to be at the public hearing because this issue is so important to him. He explained how he was drafted and during his training was warned that most of the soldiers being sent to fight weren’t coming home. He understands the sacrifice that not only his generation made, but all those who have come after. I appreciated his words and push to get this done finally.


With the conclusion of the Legislature’s public hearing, the next step is the vote on the floor and I expect 100 percent support. After that, the law moves to the County Executive’s desk where it is my hope he quickly signs this for all veterans and members of the military.


This county law follows amendments to the federal criminal laws and provides local law enforcement the ability to arrest and convict those guilty of Theft of Valor. By having a local Theft of Valor Law, the Erie County Legislature enhances our community’s ability to fight against this fraud and stop those who are pretending to be veterans or members of the military.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office at 858-8676 or email edward.rath@erie.gov.