Stolen Valor Act of 2013 signed into law

On June 3, H.R. 258, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, was signed into law by President Barack Obama as Public Law 113-12. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 20 by an overwhelming vote of 390 to 3. And on May 22, the Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent.

According to the White House, the new law "makes it a federal crime for an individual to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit."

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., a Legionnaire, introduced the bill in January after the start of the 113th Congress. At the time of its consideration on the floor, the bill had 127 co-sponsors. Senators Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced the Senate companion bill (S. 210).

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005, deeming it unconstitutional because it was, in the justices’ opinion, too broad in scope and violated the right of free speech. Heck and the Legion worked together to draft a new Stolen Valor Act, and the Supreme Court saw Heck’s new legislation as constitutional because it focused on those who seek to benefit from misrepresentations of military service and awards.

Heck’s 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 veteran or health-care benefits, obtaining a government contract only eligible for a veteran or service-disabled veteran-owned business, or getting a job reserved for a veteran.

On May 22, the House Appropriations Committee gave voice approval of the draft fiscal year (FY) 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. The legislation provides FY 2014 funding for two accounts: (1) Military construction funding for the infrastructure to house, train and equip military personnel, provide construction funds for projects pertaining to the quality of life of troops and their families, and for military base structure; and (2) Veterans Affairs (VA) funding for veterans benefits and programs. The measure now goes to the full House for passage.

The measure totals $73.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.4 billion above the enacted level for FY 2013, and approximately $2.4 billion above the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts, which do not affect the veterans spending portion of the bill.