The Stolen Valor Act of 2005, signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 20, 2006, is a U.S. law that broadens the provisions of previous U.S. law addressing the unauthorized wear, manufacture, or sale of any military decorations and medals. It makes it a federal misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal. If convicted, defendants may be imprisoned for up to six months, unless the decoration lied about is the Medal of Honor, in which case imprisonment could be up to one year.
The Act was first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19, 2005, by Representative John Salazar, a Democrat from Colorado, as H.R. 3352. It was introduced into the Senate by Senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, on November 10, 2005, as S. 1998. The Senate version was passed unanimously on September 7, 2006. The Senate version then went to the same House Judiciary Committee that held the House version. The Act briefly stalled, but the House subsequently passed the Senate version, S. 1998, on December 6, 2006.
The purpose of the Act is to strengthen the provisions of federal law (18 U.S.C. § 704) by broadening its scope and strengthening penalties. Specific new provisions in the Act include: granting more authority to Federal law enforcement officers; broadening the law to cover false claims whereas previously an overt act had to be committed; covering mailing and shipping of medals; and protecting the reputation and meaning of military heroism medals. Under the act, it is illegal for unauthorized persons to wear, buy, sell, barter, trade, or manufacture “any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces.” In the 18 months after the act was enacted, the Chicago Tribune estimates 20 prosecutions. The number is increasing as awareness about the law spreads.
The Act was likely passed to address the issue of persons claiming to have been awarded military awards for which they were not entitled, and exploiting their deception for personal gain. For example, as of June 2, 2006, there were only 120 living Medal of Honor recipients, but there were far more known imposters. There are also large numbers of people fraudulently claiming to be Navy SEALS and Army Special Forces, among others.