U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today announced their support for legislation to protect the sanctity of the sacrifices made by U.S. servicemembers from those who profit from false military service claims.
The Mississippi Senators are cosponsoring the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 (S.1728), which sets criminal penalties for those who lie about their military service or service-related honors in order to gain profit or benefits.
"False claims about military service for personal gain are an affront to our servicemen and women who are dedicated to the defense of our national security interests. Those claims diminish the value of the service and sacrifices made by those who serve," Cochran said.
"The men and women of our Armed Forces gain leadership experience and hone traits that make them strong candidates for roles outside the military," said Wicker. "Attempts to profit by fraudulently misrepresenting one's service are extremely upsetting. This legislation helps to uphold the honor and accomplishments of America's servicemembers."
The legislation, introduced by Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), was drafted to avoid the freedom of speech issues outlined in the June 28 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Alvarez. That ruling overturned a 2005 law that made it illegal to simply lie about military service, which the Court determined violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
S.1728 was written to target only those who profit from lying about military service. The bill sets punishments ranging from a fine to a year in prison for those convicted of profiting from fraudulent military service claims. The bill, with at least 29 cosponsors, is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A companion bill, HR.1775, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Cochran and Wicker are both military veterans. Cochran served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve, while Wicker served in the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Reserve.