At The American Legion’s national convention last month, the organization’s National Security Commission passed a resolution urging Congress to pass an amended version of the Stolen Valor Act after the Supreme Court ruled the original legislation unconstitutional. Specifically, Resolution No. 238 asks Congress to draft new Stolen Valor legislation to include elements of fraud to accompany false military claims, so as to erase First Amendment concerns.
The resolution asks Congress to act on an insinuation made by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Alvarez - the landmark case that struck down the 2005 bill - that a more narrowly tailored Stolen Valor law would not infringe on free speech. The majority seemed to leave open such a window for new legislation, writing that it is well established that false claims made to “effect fraud or secure moneys or other valuable considerations” have long been held to be subject to restriction and not protected by the First Amendment. Justice Stephen Breyer’s concurring opinion was unequivocal on the matter, noting that “it should be possible significantly to diminish or eliminate these remaining risks by enacting a similar but more finely tailored statute.”
Resolution 238 asks Congress to act on the Supreme Court justices’ opinions and draft new military impostor legislation that adds elements of fraud to the old Stolen Valor bill. Such a bill should pass constitutional muster and not be subject to judicial review, as fraudulent claims have long been held to not be protected speech.
Getting Stolen Valor laws back on the books is imperative, as Resolution 238 notes:
“According to the Office of Inspector General of the Veterans Administration, false claims of military service and receipt of medals of valor have resulted in literally millions of dollars in fraudulent claims for VA services, as well as related costs of investigation by the VA, and law enforcement agencies, to uncover false claims, all of which, ‘takes away valuable resources from those who are entitled,’ in the words of the VA Inspector General.”