Guest Author - Ray Hanisco
On Monday, June 3rd, 2013, President Barrack Obama signed into law the newest version of the “Stolen Valor Act.” This law replaces the 2005 version signed by President George W. Bush, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012. The question to ask is: Is this law so much fluff or is it a good start?
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court struck down the 2005 version of the “Stolen Valor Act” in a six to three decision. The Justices stated the law was too broad in scope and violated the First Amendment, an individual’s rights to free speech, that is, to lie. This decision was seen as laying out a pathway to future legislation.
The American Legion, a Veteran’s organization, reported that during their 2012 National Convention, they adopted resolution 283. This resolution called on the U.S. Congress to amend the “Stolen Valor Act” of 2005, and offered assistance in drafting a new bill which would meet the Supreme Court’s concerns.
In January 2013, Representative Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) sponsored the amended 2013 version of the “Stolen Valor Act” in both the House and Senate. This new version states, it is a federal crime for an individual to fraudulently claim they have been awarded any of several military decorations with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits, such as, Veterans Healthcare Benefits, procuring government contracts and jobs reserved for Veterans. The military decorations covered under this new law includes: The Medal of Honor, The Distinguish Service Cross, The Navy Cross, The Air Force Cross, The Silver Star, The Purple Heart, The Combat Infantryman’s Badge, The Combat Action Badge, The Combat Medical Badge, The Combat Action Ribbon, and The Combat Action Medal. Convicted offenders could receive up to one year in prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines for each offense. The bill was passed into law, and signed by the President.
The government created a website, in 2012, as a research tool of our nation’s award winners. Its address is valor.defense.gov. “The Stars and Stripes,” the U.S. Military Newspaper, reported, on July 23, 2012, the government administration had each branch of the services compiling records on Medal of Honor and Service Cross awardees since September 11, 2001. The military branches were also working on a list of recipients of the Silver Star. The Department of Defense (DOD) told the Stars and Stripes it may be impossible to go back any further in time with any accuracy due to various hindrances that have occurred. One of the difficulties, the DOD sighted, is the loss of millions of servicemen’s records from the fire at the Record’s Center located in St. Louis in 1973.
I have personally visited the website listed above. As of the writing of this article, many of the links on this site are faulty because my computer gives me the following message, “The site’s security certificate is not trusted!” This could mean any number of things up to and including corruption of the site by outside sources. Over time, I am sure those problems will be corrected.
Is “The Stolen Valor Act” of 2013 all fluff, or is it a good start? Most likely it is a little of both, but a start it is. Time will tell, and I am positive there will be challenges to the enactment of this law. We can only hope that it will stand-up to a Supreme Court test.