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Top South Florida Legislators Introduce Bill to Fight Military Impersonation

That "veteran" in a military uniform asking for a donation at the intersection or the grocery store may not actually be a veteran at all, and three top lawmakers from South Florida are fighting back. State Senator Dan Geber of Miami Beach, State Representative Maria Sachs of Delray Beach and Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs will host a news conference to announce the introduction of new legislation aimed at preventing the impersonation of veterans and military personnel while soliciting donations.

The press conference will take place on Friday, March 5, at 9:00 a.m., at the Deerfield Beach VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), located at 2100 SW 10th Street in Deerfield Beach.

The legislation - Senate Bill 1824 and House Bill 1455 - would make it a felony to misrepresent oneself as a veteran or member of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard in order to collect donations from the public. In many of Florida's major cities, paid solicitors are dressed in military combat uniforms and stationed on street corners and at retail stores, asking motorists and shoppers for contributions.

"Our country's veterans have fought and sacrificed in these uniforms to protect our freedom, and having non-veterans wear them to mislead the public into giving up their hard-earned money is unconscionable," said Senator Geber. "We owe it to our veterans to defend their valor."

"These bills will make protecting the honor of our veterans and members of the military a top priority," said Representative Sachs, whose father was a decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry in World War II. "Presently, our firefighters and law enforcement are protected from impersonation by law, and the same should hold true for our state's fighting men and women."

"I'm very proud to support these efforts by two dedicated, determined public servants to stem this growing problem," said Commissioner Jacobs, who will file a support resolution at the next meeting of the Broward County Commission. "My son-in-law is a U.S. Army National Guardsman with two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Germany, and this legislation is all about defending those who have defended us."

"The Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs often receives calls from citizens requesting information about the solicitation of funds in the name of our state's 1.7 million veterans," said Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs Communications Director Steve Murray. "Non-veterans should not represent themselves as veterans for the sake of fundraising. Our department is working with Senator Geber and Representative Sachs in their efforts to end such practices."