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Public Statements

Stolen Valor Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1775, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011, was introduced by the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Heck). I want to thank him for his dedication to protect the honor bestowed on our Nation's military heroes.

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Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1775, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011, was introduced by the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Heck). I thank him for his dedication to protect the honor bestowed on our nation's military heroes.

In 2006, a man who had created several false identities fraudulently claimed to be a seriously injured Marine captain who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and a recipient of the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

His tangled web of lies earned him credibility among other veterans, law enforcement officials and politicians. He told these false stories and used them for his own benefit, disrespecting those who had honorably earned these awards for their service.

This is an example of a man who did not simply lie about receiving a military award. He lied to defraud others and benefit himself, discrediting those veterans who actually deserve recognition.

H.R. 1775 prevents similar fraud in the future and reaffirms Congress' respect and gratitude for our Armed Forces. It ensures that those who seek to exploit these medals for fraudulent gain are held accountable.

We have a long-standing commitment to protect the status of military decorations awarded to our military heroes who sacrifice greatly for us in service.

The first honorary badges of distinction for military service date back to George Washington's presidency. Washington stated that anyone with the ``insolence to assume'' a badge that he did not earn would be severely punished.

It has been a federal crime for nearly a century to wear, manufacture, sell or fraudulently produce military decorations or medals without authorization. In 2006, Congress enacted the Stolen Valor Act after a rise in number of fraudulent claims of receipt of military decorations, particularly the Medal of Honor.

This past June, the Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Alvarez, held that the Stolen Valor Act wrongly criminalized speech protected by the First Amendment. Simply put, lying about receiving a Medal of Honor, although it may be offensive, is in fact protected free speech.

The Court did acknowledge that false claims about military decorations, such as the Medal of Honor, demean the value of the award and may offend the true holders of these decorations.

H.R. 1775, the ``Stolen Valor Act of 2011,'' clarifies the law to make it a crime to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor or other enumerated military decoration with the intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefit.

The term ``fraudulently'' incorporates the necessary knowledge requirement. Black's Law Dictionary defines ``fraud'' as ``a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her injury.'' It clarifies that there must be specific intent to engage in the crime, namely that the fraud is committed for money, property or other tangible benefit.

The term ``tangible benefit'' is intended to cover those ``valuable considerations'' beyond money or property, such as offers of employment, which Justice Kennedy identified as appropriately prohibited benefits to a fraud.

H.R. 1775 clarifies the Stolen Valor Act to protect the right to free speech but also ensures that those whose speech is intended to defraud and do not enjoy First Amendment protection will be held responsible.

I again thank the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Heck) for his leadership on this issue. And I urge my colleagues to support this bill.


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