Disabled veterans can now move through airport security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light jackets or hats, according to a new policy announced March 27, 2013, by the Transportation Security Administration.
The new policy is part of TSA’s Wounded Warrior Screening program, which was established in 2005 in an effort to ease the screening process for wounded service members. These individuals will be escorted through the security checkpoint and will be eligible for expedited screening through TSA Pre-Check. They also will not be required to remove their shoes, light outwear jackets or hats when passing through security checkpoints.
To be eligible for the service, a wounded warrior or traveling companion must contact the Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operations Center at MSIJSOC@dhs.gov, or 1-888-262-2396, in advance of their travel to provide itinerary information. Those traveling with injured troops or veterans must receive standard screening.
Maureen McCloskey, national advocacy director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, praised the move by TSA but cautioned that the policy will only be effective if it’s implemented consistently.
“The key is going to be solid training and implementation and ensuring the people who are implementing these processes do so consistently,” McCloskey said. “We know what to expect. Sometimes TSA does great; sometimes they do horribly, and we usually hear more about the horrible things.”
According to TSA, the number of wounded service members using the Wounded Warrior Screening Program is steadily increasing, with approximately 4,252 in 2011, 5,914 in 2012, and 3,315 since the start of 2013.
TSA also offers expedited screening for service members including reservist and National Guard members at several airports across the country. The agency also supports the Honor Flight Network, which transports U.S. veterans and their escorts to Washington, D.C. area airports in order to visit the war memorials build and dedicated to honor their service.
Last week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced the bipartisan Helping Heroes Fly Act (H.R. 1344), which requires that the TSA ease the airport screening process for veterans. On March 27, Gabbard praised the TSA for implementing the new procedures for disabled veterans.
“It upholds the highest levels of security while affording a trusted group of citizens the dignity and respect they deserve,” Gabbard said. “I have expressed the importance of this issue to Administrator Pistole and look forward to passage of the Helping Heroes Fly Act, which will build on these adjustments and ensure that these changes are made permanent.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's advocacy on behalf of veterans with disabilities
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.