Stolen Valor Act Passes House, Senate

On May 20 the House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Representative – and Legionnaire – Joe Heck (NV). The bill, H.R. 258, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 390 to 3. Two days later, the full Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent.

This measure will make it a crime to knowingly benefit from false statements about receiving certain military awards and decorations. Rep. Heck introduced the bill in January, right after the start of the new Congress. At the time of its consideration on the floor the bill had 127 co-sponsors. Senators Dean Heller (NV) and Jon Tester (MT) have introduced the Senate companion bill (S. 210) which currently has 21 co-sponsors.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-437) made it a crime to lie about military service and awards, but was overturned by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012. Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rep. Heck's legislation would be constitutional because it focuses on those who seek to benefit from misrepresentations of military service and awards. His more narrowly-focused bill states, "whoever, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds oneself out to be a recipient of a decoration or medal shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year, or both." The legislation covers issues such as lying to receive veterans or health care benefits, lying to obtain a government contract to be awarded to a veteran, or lying to get a job reserved for a veteran.

The issue of re-working the 2006 version of the Stolen Valor Act with a narrower, constitutionally-sound bill was first brought to Rep. Heck's attention during a meeting of his congressional district’s Veterans Advisory Panel. The panel is a group of local veterans that keep him informed on issues affecting local veterans in southern Nevada. The Stolen Valor Act of 2012 passed the House by a vote of 410-3 in September of 2012. However, it failed to pass the Senate.

H.R. 258 is supported by The American Legion and other veterans and military service organizations.

 

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