If you lie about being awarded military honors for profit, you can now be subject to criminal prosecution, according to a new law signed by President Obama Monday.
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013, introduced in January by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), “makes it a Federal crime for an individual to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit,” the White House said.
The law was the latest attempt by the government to help protect real military heroes from phonies.
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.
The 2005 version was written to say it was a crime simply to lie about military service and awards.
Pam Sterner of Pueblo wrote a college paper in 2004 called "Stolen Valor" and it became the blueprint for the act. Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, (D-Colo.), sponsored the bill and it was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2006.
Rick Strandlof, founder of Colorado Veterans Alliance, was accused of seeking to raise funds for that organization by posing as Marine Captain "Rick Duncan" and claiming to have received a Silver Star and Purple Heart in the Iraq War.
He told KRDO NewsChannel 13 in a 2008 interview that he was a Second Lieutenant at the Pentagon during the September 11th attacks and that the day would forever live in his memory. He was eventually exposed as a fraud and criminally charged.
In January 2010, Strandlof challenged the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act in U.S. District Court in Denver. A federal judge ruled the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional because it violated free speech. The criminal case against Strandlof was dismissed.
The act was officially found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012 in a 6 to 3 decision.
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. A tweaked version of that bill was reintroduced in 2013.
President Obama took a hard stance against military phonies last year when he announced a new government website to track awards for legitimate heroes.
"No American hero should ever have their valor stolen," he said.