New Law Eases Airport Screening Procedures for Disabled Veterans

TSA officerWounded and disabled veterans will experience easier and improved airport screening thanks to new legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on August 9, 2013.

The bipartisan measure, sponsored in the House by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and in the Senate by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., makes permanent the Transportation Security Administration’s Wounded Warrior Screening Program, which launched in 2005 in an effort to offer sensitive screening of severely injured or disabled service members and veterans at U.S. airports.

The TSA in March 2013 announced additional enhancements to the Wounded Warrior Screening Program, including expedited screening through TSA Pre-Check and waiving the requirement to remove shoes, light jackets and hats for disabled veterans passing through security checkpoints. 

The new law makes those changes permanent and also requires the TSA to provide training to all screeners on the protocols of the Wounded Warrior Screening Program to prevent discrepancies in how disabled veterans using the program are treated. It also requires ongoing consultations between TSA officials and veterans advocacy organizations and requires the TSA to report to Congress annually on the status of the program.

Gabbard introduced the legislation after hearing from wounded and disabled veterans as well as veteran advocacy groups about the inconsistencies many face when undergoing airport security screening by the TSA. Some have given troubling accounts of having to remove clothing or prosthetics in the view of other passengers or having to awkwardly go through screening machines without the benefit of a prosthetic leg or limb, Gabbard said.

“Due to the nature of their injuries and disabilities, removing a belt, shoe or jacket can be more than just an inconvenience,” Gabbard said. “These selfless heroes should not have to face a lengthy, invasive or even humiliating screening procedures at our airports.”

Learn more about the Wounded Warrior Screening Program

Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com

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