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What is the Stolen Valor Act of 2013?

Updated on August 13, 2013

I am and have been a strong supporter of our military and the efforts of Congress in enacting this legislation make it clear that preserving the medals rightly won by those who have served our country will be preserved. The importance of this act and its content cannot be understated. It sends a clear message to those who would present themselves as a veteran in an attempt to gain benefits for something they did not earn. Individuals, who have served, are serving and the families of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice deserve to have the respect and rights they have earned. It is unconscionable to me that there are individuals in our society who would make decisions to acquire something they did not earn in relation to military benefits.

This act has not seen the exposure it deserves and is therefore the reason I am writing to let others who read this know of its existence and the support it received from both houses of Congress. Rarely does any action by Congress get the support of any legislation that this act received in its passage but the purpose and its enactment sends a strong signal of the support existing in Congress for our military. The votes this legislation received from both houses of Congress to pass this legislation is unprecedented to say the least. It was passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 390 to 3 in the House of Representatives.

Congress receives little if any positive or favorable opinion from the public but the public should commend Congress for taking such action regarding this legislation. This legislation is an example of how both houses of Congress can work together on important issues. Protecting our military and their benefits from individuals who proclaim to be something they are not is a matter of the utmost importance.

This act was proposed in 2012 but the Supreme Court held the content unconstitutional and affected free speech. I am not sure what language the Supreme Court held to be unconstitutional but the response did not stop the effort to get this act enacted. The 2013 edition changed the language to satisfy the concerns the court had. Little known to the public the American Legion was an organization that pushed for this law to be enacted. The legion worked with Congress to finalize the content which became law on June 3, 2013.

There are several requirements contained within this legislation not the least of which being it is now 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. Another aspect in this revised legislation is that it criminalized the act of lying to gain unearned veterans health-care benefits or other rewards, such as employment reserved for veterans.

After passage of this legislation Legion Commander James E Koutz praised the Congress by making the following statement: “Those who deliberately lie about military service, wear medals they did not earn or make claims of combat heroism they did not achieve are more than just liars. They are perpetrators of the worst kind of fraud. Their lies are an insult to all who have truly stood in harm’s way and earned their decorations. We raised this issue at our national convention, and the House acted.”

I could not agree more with the statement in the preceding paragraph. The honor and integrity of our military awards was apparently in jeopardy. I am not sure what prompted this action by Congress but it is an action which should be commended. Those who would commit the actions in this legislation which are now a federal offense should think twice before they take such actions. It is hoped however remote that the cooperation exhibited between both houses of Congress will exhibit itself in more legislation in the future. Granted there are going to be times when there will be disagreements on the content and scope of legislation. Addressing critical issues of which there are several must and should be addressed with the same cooperation exhibited in finalizing this legislation for signature.


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