Senator Kent Conrad today signed on as a lead supporter of legislation from Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) to implement criminal penalties for falsely claiming to have served in the U.S. military or to have been awarded a military medal, decoration or other device in order to secure a tangible benefit or personal gain.
"This nation rightly reveres the service of our military personnel and veterans, especially the acts of incredible bravery, courage and heroism that are often part of that service," Conrad said. "We can protect the honor of military service and valor, as well as the First Amendment's free speech guarantee. This legislations does that."
Known as the "Military Service Integrity Act," the bill was carefully crafted to avoid constitutional issues cited by the U.S. Supreme Court when it struck down the "Stolen Valor Act" in a 6-3 vote on June 28. The Court ruled the prohibition against such claims in that law were too broad to pass constitutional muster.
The legislation avoids the constitutional issues raised by the Supreme Court by applying criminal penalties specifically to those who falsely claim military service or awards in order to obtain personal gain or tangible benefit. Violators would be subject to a fine or imprisonment of up to six months or both.
The bill defines prohibited communications for personal gain or tangible benefit as those made in pursuit of employment or professional advancement; communications for which financial remuneration is involved; those designed to affect the outcome of criminal or civil court proceedings; or to impact one's personal credibility in a political campaign.
The legislation also restores measures dating to 1947 that would make it a crime to manufacture, sell, attempt to sell, import or export military decorations of medals authorized by Congress for the armed forces, except when authorized under regulations pursuant to law. The Supreme Court's ruling struck those provisions, as part of the broader law. Conrad said it is important to make clear those laws, which were not addressed by the Court, are still in force.