Misrepresenting military status could become a felony

By Chuck Weber - bio | email

DELRAY BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A Delray Beach lawmaker has filed a bill making it a crime for anyone to misrepresent him or herself as a veteran. The legislation, filed by Representative Maria Sachs, would make misrepresentation of military status a felony.

Prominent at Palm Beach County intersections in recent years are the fatigue-clad solicitors from a group called Veterans Support Organization. The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center says it has received nearly $200,000 from Veterans Support in the past four years.

The charity is legitimate, said Mary Phillips of the VA Medical Center. "I've had a very positive experience with them," she said.

But Richard Van Houten, the head of Veterans Support Organization, admitted Monday, until now, not all of his solicitors wearing fatigues were actually veterans.

Now with the bill in the legislature, Van Houten told us starting this week it will only send out veterans in fatigues.

Vietnam veteran John Hawkes, of West Palm Beach, said he thinks that's a good idea. "You can buy a set a of fatigues and medals anywhere you want," he pointed out.

Hawkes says the thought of people posing as vets, and keeping the money, is upsetting.  "If they want to feather their own nest, they can find another way to do it, not on the backs of vets," said Hawkes.