Stolen Valor is a Federal Crime — Lying about Military Credentials Is Not

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How can you tell if someone is lying about serving in the military?

In 2013, President Obama signed The Stolen Valor Act, making it a federal crime to falsely claim to be a recipient of certain military medals or decorations in order to obtain money or other tangible benefits. An earlier Stolen Valor Act (from 2005) had been overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was too broad in scope and violated the right of free speech, but the Act of 2013 still stands.

Nonetheless, making “mistakes” or consciously lying about serving in a military academy or engaging in military service is not a crime. Distasteful as they may be, self-aggrandizing statements that fabricate biographical details, military or otherwise, are very common.

Recently, political candidates, being vetted before next year’s presidential election, have come under scrutiny, and then attack, for falsehoods in their spoken or written words. Ben Carson claimed, in two books and on a Facebook posting, to have received a full scholarship to West Point directly as a result of a meeting with General Westmoreland, but this turned out to be untrue. In 2008, Hillary Clinton said she had a “different memory” of coming under attack in Bosnia than the details actually recorded.

When it comes to separating fact from fiction in regard to military service, an Air Force veteran suggests that the skeptical look for the following in a possible liar:

  • Lack of knowledge of military jargon and abbreviations
  • Lack of knowledge of bases, forts and camps and their locations
  • Claims that the individual did not perform menial duties in the military
  • Lack of knowledge of equipment, types of vessels, etc., depending on the service branch
  • Lack of knowledge concerning ranks in the military

Most false stories of military service can only fool those who have no military background.

If you are in the military and facing a court martial for any offense, you should always have a professional court martial attorney in your corner to help you navigate the pathways of the military complex.

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