Since Donald Trump’s election, Congress has been plagued by partisan infighting over Russian hackers, Trump’s cabinet appointees, and the repeal of Obamacare. As both parties in Congress focus on tearing each other apart, nary a word has been said about an epidemic that has been plaguing our troops to a degree we have never seen before: stolen valor. It is no surprise that a Congress and a President elect with record low approval ratings are turning the focus away from our troops, who have an approval rating of 110%.
With the advent of social media, the ability to falsely claim you have served in the military is easier than ever before. Nowhere is it easier to falsely claim the title of troop without earning it than online. When @Killary1488 claims that as a Delta Force Scout SEAL Sniper he knows how Benghazi should have been handled, there’s no way to know if that tweet is coming from a fortified compound at Fort Benning or from a TGIFridays in Fredericksburg. When the hashtag #Veterans4Kaepernick was trending to support Colin Kaepernick in his national anthem protest against the troops, those tweets could have just as easily been coming from veterans of the Phish 1999 Reunion tour, there is simply no way to know.
The solution to solving this online epidemic of stolen valor is simple. However, instead of focusing on readily identifying who is a troop and who is not, Congress is preoccupied with ensuring that Twitter verifies anyone who has ever written a Thought Catalog article while thousands of frauds are masquerading as troops on Twitter. While blue check marks are tossed around like candy to Z-list celebrities, our troops voices are silenced by the millions of impostors claiming a title they never earned.
Stolen valor has always been a complicated phenomenon. When 50 Cent wore Marine Corps dress blues it used to take hours of Wikipedia searches to determine whether or not he earned the jacket he wore. Patriots who actually had the balls to join the Marines like Shaggy and Nate Dogg were indistinguishable from thousands of valor stealing celebrities. Now, with trolls hiding behind avatars and Twitter handles, the situation is even more difficult to sort out.
When Congress does attempt to support the troops, its efforts are almost always misguided. Politicians may funnel billions into the F-35, but that program may take another 30 years to produce real, concrete benefits to those who serve. For every hour long debate Congress has about F-35 appropriations, 200 valors are stolen on Twitter, yet politicians stay silent.
Time and time again we have let down those who have served. The VA is failing our troops and no one in Congress has an answer. Liberal democrats want to turn the VA into a Soviet style bureaucracy with endless breadlines and Republicans want to have Peter Thiel turn the entire system into an app. Our troops deserve better than socialism and the only app they need is the free one they’ve earned every November 10th at their local Outback Steakhouse. Verifying the troops may not solve every problem they face, but it’s a start.