Monday, May 20, 2013 | 7 p.m.
Nevada Rep. Joe Heck’s bill to safeguard the sanctity of military awards had an easy ride through the House of Representatives tonight, earning the near-unanimous support of his colleagues.
The House voted 390 to 3 for Heck’s Stolen Valor Act, which would make it a federal misdemeanor to profit from falsely claiming to have received military medals, badges or other decorations.
It is the second time the House has passed the bill: In December, House lawmakers passed a nearly identical version by a vote of 410 to 3.
The bill also represents a second chance for Congress to address the issue of false claims of military service and success.
In 2006, Congress adopted the Stolen Valor Act — a law that had banned false claims of military service and awards more broadly, and not strictly in instances where the misrepresentation was for the clear purpose of material benefit.
Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down that law in U.S. v. Alvarez, ruling 6 to 3 that the broad definition violated the constitutional right to free speech under the First Amendment, which protects all speech — even if that speech is lying — that does not cause injury.
Heck’s bill would not run into the same constitutional difficulty, because of its narrow focus on lying for profit, e.g. to receive veterans’ health benefits or to obtain preference for a job application or a government contract.
“It is fitting for the House to pass this bill a few days prior to Memorial Day,” Heck said. “Benefiting from and lying about receiving one of these awards is an affront to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Nevada Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus voted for the legislation, but Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei was not present for the vote.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is the chief sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, which has not yet been considered.
Heck credited his Veterans Advisory Panel, a group of local veterans in Southern Nevada, for coming up with the idea for the bill.