Proos: ‘stolen valor’ dishonors true heroes

State Sen. John Proos today asked southwest Michigan residents to stand up against individuals lying about military status in order to obtain benefits, employment or other personal gain and report suspected cases to authorities.

“Impersonating a veteran for personal gain dishonors our true American heroes,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Many organizations and companies offer incentives for our veterans in gratitude to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms and way of life. Lying about military service to fraudulently obtain benefits is shameful, unacceptable and must be punished.”

Proos co-sponsored legislation which has been approved by the Michigan Senate that would prohibit individuals from misrepresenting their military status with the intent to defraud, obtain employment, or be elected to public office.

Senate Bill 386 prohibits false representations by an individual, including claims that he or she:

  • Is entitled to wear military awards, decorations, or rank;
  • Served in the armed forces, reserves, or National Guard;
  • Served in the military during wartime or in a combat zone; and
  • Served, or is serving, in the military at a certain location, with a certain rank, or engaged in a certain mission, or any other claim concerning actual service.

The false claims may be made orally, written or by false display. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both, and up to 100 hours of community service.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. If passed, Michigan would be the tenth state to enact stolen valor laws. Other states with similar measures include including California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and Tennessee.

“If you witness an example of this happening, please report it to your local Southwest Michigan police or state officials,” Proos said.  In cases where someone is impersonating a member of the Michigan National Guard, residents can call the Michigan Department of Military Affairs at 517-481-8083.