Defense creates military honors database to prevent false claims

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The Defense Department launched a Web database Tuesday that will list the recipients of military service honors.

The website, Valor.Defense.gov, was created to discourage individuals from fraudulently claiming military honors. In a controversial decision in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that falsely claiming a service medal constituted protected speech under the First Amendment. The decision overturned the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, which had made it a federal crime to falsify military award information.

In a statement, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Erin C. Conaton noted the importance of having an official database to verify accomplishments from military service.

“It is essential that we honor and recognize our service members’ achievements, while maintaining the integrity of our award data,” Conaton said.

The database will contain information from all the service branches, which currently maintain records on military awards separately. During a congressional hearing in February, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, criticized Defense for failing to take the lead in creating a unified medal database. Pentagon officials responded that establishing such a database would be difficult and would potentially stretch resources thin.

Regardless, Conaton noted the new website will work with each branch of the military to expediently upload information from recent conflicts, along with medal recipients from past wars. Information on past wars may not initially be accessible, she cautioned.

“We are working quickly to compile accurate information on the heroes of the post-9/11 conflicts,” Conaton said. “At the same time, we will work with the military services to identify and seek to address the challenges associated with compiling data from earlier conflicts.”

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