Heck Introduces Stolen Valor Act to Protect Integrity of Military Awards

Jan 15, 2013 Issues: Defense and National Security, Veterans

WASHINGTON - Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) today introduced legislation designed to protect the integrity of military awards by making it a crime to knowingly benefit from lying about receiving certain valorous military medals and awards. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (H.R. 258) is identical to legislation previously introduced by Rep. Heck that passed the House of Representatives in 2012 on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. In June of 2012, the Supreme Court overturned a previous stolen valor law on the grounds that it infringed on constitutionally-protected free speech, prompting Rep. Heck’s bill to be improved and narrowed. Rep. Heck's bill makes a key change to the previous language that should now withstand constitutional scrutiny because the legislation narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from their misrepresentations of the receipt of military awards - not the lie itself.

"As long as people are willing to benefit from making false claims about receiving our nation's highest military honors, I will stand up to defend the honor of the soldiers who have earned the awards and the sanctity of the awards themselves," Rep. Heck said. "The valorous awards this bill seeks to protect were earned for doing extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances in defense of our country. These awards can and should be protected from fraudulent behavior by law and the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 will accomplish that objective. I hope we can build off of last year's strong bipartisan support in the House and get this important bill signed into law this year."

"In last year’s Supreme Court ruling, I believe that while the court may have got it ACCURATE, they didn’t necessarily get it RIGHT," said C. Douglas Sterner, Curator, Military Times Hall of Valor. "Joe Heck’s Stolen Valor 2.0, which passed the House last year by a rare 410-3 vote, marks the appropriate step of addressing Stolen Valor both RIGHTLY  and with ACCURACY in terms of our Constitution. His bill does both and I am pleased to see him re-introducing it in the current Congress. I expect it to receive broad support from both parties and both chambers, as it should. It is the least we owe our veterans.”

Rep. Heck's 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 bill covers issues ranging from lying to receive veteran or health care benefits to obtaining a government contract or getting a job reserved for a veteran.

Rep. Heck's Stolen Valor Act of 2012 passed the House 410-3 in September. House rules mandate that any bill not signed into law during a session of Congress be re-introduced in the next session. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 will be referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and has 63 bipartisan co-sponsors.

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