Targeting Phony Heroes: Stolen Valor Act Awaits Obama’s Signature

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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Four days before the nation’s veterans make their way down hometown streets in a flurry of star spangled confetti for Memorial Day, a bill to protect war heroes from impostors is making its way to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which would make it illegal to profit from lying about military honors, passed the Senate with unanimous consent Wednesday after breezing through the House of Representatives Monday.

The bill, introduced in January by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), is the latest attempt by Congress to push through legislation targeting military fakers.

The original iteration of the bill, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, had been in effect for six years before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. At the time, the law was written to say it was a crime simply to lie about military service and awards — a broad characterization the Supreme Court said violated a person’s First Amendment right to free speech.

A new version of the bill, introduced by Heck in late 2012, narrowed the act to say the liar must be attempting to somehow materially profit from the lies, making the would-be crime more akin to fraud. Heck reintroduced tweaked legislation in January.

“Tonight marks the end of what has been a very long, challenging, and rewarding process,” Heck said late Wednesday. “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.”

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to request for comment, but President Obama took a hard stance against military phonies last year when he announced a new government website to track awards for legitimate heroes.

“It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but one thing is certain — it is contemptible,” he said in reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2012. “…[N]o American hero should ever have their valor stolen.”

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