Military service members who have served with distinction in a number of
areas are recognized by the award of various medals and ribbons. Some
examples include the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross,
the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart,
the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Combat Action Badge, the Combat
Medical Badge, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Combat Action Medal.
Soldiers and sailors who have earned these recognitions are rightfully
proud of their accomplishments. Military awards are intended to recognize
an aspect of the soldier’s or sailor’s conduct that the military
deems noteworthy. Most conduct that is acknowledged in this way can be
seen as an indication of deeper character traits that will remain with
the service member throughout their military service and beyond. In addition
to the sacrifices their military service entailed, veterans can also legitimately
be proud to speak of their military awards and decorations beyond their
service and into their civilian life.
Civilian society also recognizes the honor these awards confer, as well
as the accompanying presumption of beneficial character traits. In some
situations this recognition can translate to a tangible benefit –
for example, in a job application, a political campaign, or other area
of public discourse.
Because of the tangible benefit that can accompany these awards, unscrupulous
individuals have been known to inflate their awards or outright lie about
having received them. Congress responded to this in 2005 with passage
of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. That law made it a federal misdemeanor
to represent oneself falsely as having received any U.S. military decoration
or medal. If convicted, a defendant faced imprisonment for up to six months,
unless the lie concerned the Medal of Honor, for which imprisonment could
reach up to one year.
The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was challenged in
United States v. Alvarez on First Amendment grounds as being an unconstitutional abridgment of
free speech rights. The Supreme Court ultimately struck down the law in
a 6 to 3 decision. (The defendant in the case remained imprisoned on fraud
charges notwithstanding the invalidation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.)
Congress responded to the Supreme Court decision by passing the Stolen
Valor Act of 2013, which sought to address the constitutional defects
identified by the Supreme Court.
A more recent but arguably higher profile example of misstating a military
record occurred when Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald claimed
in January that he had served in the special forces when in fact he had
not. After the claim was reported by The Huffington Post on February 23,
Secretary McDonald apologized. However, his misstatement came on the heels
of a heated exchange a few weeks earlier with Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.,
a 22-year Marine Corps veteran and the only member of Congress to have
served in both Iraq wars, when Secretary McDonald challenged Rep. Coffman’s
military service during McDonald’s appearance before the House Veterans’
Affairs Committee, on which Rep. Coffman serves.
In response to Secretary McDonald’s misstatement, Rep. Mike Coffman
called it an error but doesn't detract from his legitimate and honorable service.
Although these are higher-profile examples of misstating one’s military
record, it is equally important for all military service members to state
their record accurately. It is also just as important for those who have
worked hard to earn their military pay and entitlements that their record
accurately reflect what they earned. Unfortunately, the military does
not always maintain an accurate record of a soldier’s or sailor’s
service. The military may also refuse to grant a service member his or
her pay, retirement, or benefits as earned. Sometimes this is the result
of a clerical error, and sometimes it is the result of a policy being
Whatever the reason for the inaccurate records, the attorneys at The Federal
Practice Group Worldwide Service have extensive experience with military
records correction. They are knowledgeable about the process from start
to finish. These records range from military pay, military retirement,
military benefits, military disability ratings, and other types of records.
If your military record is not accurate, or if you are not receiving the
correct military pay, retirement, benefits, or disability, contact the
military records correction attorneys at The Federal Practice Group Worldwide
Service today for a case evaluation.