The House on Monday overwhelmingly voted for the latest version of the Stolen Valor Act, a law that will make it a crime to don the medals and ribbons that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are awarded for combat actions.
The legislation passed 309 to three.
A 2005 version of the law was struck down by the Supreme Court last June, when it ruled that lying about military heroics was constitutionally protected speech unless there was intent to gain some benefit or something of value by fraud.
The House version, like one passed in the Senate in December, includes an “intent to defraud” provision that advocates believe will permit the law to stand up against any court challenge.
“This law is long overdue,” Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., said in a statement released immediately after the vote. Cook is a retired Marine Corps colonel who served in Vietnam, where he received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star Medal for valor. “When people make false claims of military rank and heroism, it does a tremendous disservice not only to our vets, but to the public.”
The 2005 version of the law was broad, making it a crime to make any false statements claiming military awards and decorations.
A California man, Xavier Alvarez, was convicted under that law for claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine but appealed the case up to the Supreme Court, which struck it down.
The latest Stolen Valor Act was introduced into the House by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who called it “fitting” for the House to pass the bill only days ahead of Memorial Day.
“The awards, and the men and women who have earned them, in some cases posthumously, are worthy of the utmost respect and sanctity,” he said in a statement. “Benefitting from lying about receiving one of these awards is an affront to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."