Congress has once again taken measures to protect the integrity and honor of several military honors. On June 3rd, 2013, the President signed into law an updated version of the Stolen Valor Act. This Act makes it unlawful for “whoever, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds oneself out to be a recipient” of certain medals and distinctions. Included in this list of medals are the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Air Force Cross, and the Purple Heart. Certain combat badges, such as the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Ribbon, or Combat Action Medal, are also included under this law. Penalties for violating this law can include fines of up to 100,000 dollars and/or up to one year in prison for each violation.
This new law revised the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. The previous version of this law was struck down because of its overbroad language that encompassed all dishonest representations of military decorations. Specifically, Justice Kennedy’s opinion stated that the previous law was unconstitutional because, “Were the Court to hold that the interest in truthful discourse alone is sufficient to sustain a ban on speech, absent any evidence that the speech was used to gain a material advantage, it would give government a broad censorial power unprecedented in this Court’s cases or in our constitutional tradition.” By requiring that false representations be used for material gain, Congress seems to have complied with the previous ruling. This law is an important step to address recent increases in military decorations fraud and to protect the value of these military honors.