The Senate voted Wednesday unanimously to pass the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which makes it a federal crime to misrepresent military heroics or wear medals and decorations that have not actually been awarded.
The same bill passed with a 390-3 vote in the House on Monday and will now be sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it. Individuals convicted under the law will be subject to fines or even imprisonment up to one year, or both.
Similar legislation passed in 2005 was later struck down by the Supreme Court, which said that lying about military experience was protected under the First Amendment as free speech unless there was intent to defraud to gain something of value. The law that Obama is expected to sign now includes that provision.
The law, which was drafted and introduced into the House by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, also defined “combat badge” to mean the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Ribbon or Combat Action Medal.
Heck said in a statement through his official House website that the Senate vote “marks an end of what has been a very long, challenging, and rewarding process.
“From first learning of the issue at a veterans’ advisory group meeting in early 2011 to tonight's unanimous approval in the Senate, the Stolen Valor Act is finally back on the books to protect the integrity and sanctity of military awards.”
Heck also thanked fellow Nevadan Sen. Dean Heller, who introduced the bill into the Senate. The legislation was speedily reviewed and moved out of the Judiciary Committee, according to Heller.
“It is a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country that both chambers have passed this bill before Memorial Day and I am hopeful that the President will sign it into law as quickly as possible,” Heck said.