Heck's Stolen Valor Act Passes House
Bill cleared for Senate action following strong bipartisan vote
WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives today passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 (H.R. 1775) which makes it a crime to knowingly benefit from lies about receiving military awards. The bill, introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) in May of last year, makes a key change to the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it infringed upon free speech rights. Rep. Heck's bill, which unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee on August 1, will withstand constitutional scrutiny because the legislation narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from their misrepresentations of receiving military awards - not the lie itself. Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration where Senator Scott Brown's (MA) companion bill has bipartisan support. Rep. Heck's Stolen Valor Act of 2011 passed the House by a vote of 410 to 3.
"The need to protect the honor, service, and sacrifice of our veterans and military personnel is as strong today as it has ever been. Our service men and women who have been decorated - some of them posthumously - for their exemplary service and heroic sacrifice defending our nation and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans deserve the valor they displayed to be defended against those who would seek to benefit from lying about military decorations," Rep. Heck said. "The Stolen Valor Act of 2011 achieves this objective while ensuring we protect the constitutional liberties for which they fought. I urge the Senate to follow the strong bipartisan example set by the House and bring this bill to the floor for a vote."
Rep. Heck urged his colleagues to support the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 on the House floor. A video of his speech is below.
Background on the Stolen Valor Act of 2011
• The bill, as amended and passed by the House Judiciary Committee on August 1, 2012, exempts individuals who wear military medals or decorations that do not belong to them from penalties outlined in the bill. This was due to concerns raised in the United States v. Alvarez decision in which the SCOTUS stated that simply wearing medals was considered free speech.
• The new text enforces penalties against individuals who, with the intent to obtain money, property or anything of value, fraudulently hold themselves out to be recipients of a military decoration or medal.
• Under the bill, punishments against such individuals would include fines or imprisonment of no more than a year, or both. Previous text had higher crimes for Congressional Medal Of Honor, Special operations service, and service in a Combat Zone. The new text makes the punishment uniform.