Starting Wednesday, the TSA will offer wounded soldiers curb-to-gate service and allow them to go through security with their shoes, light jackets and hats on. Current military personnel who go through a TSA checkpoint in uniform and with proper identification can already keep on their footwear, under existing rules.
“In recognition of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we have revised our screening requirements to allow expedited screening for this trusted group of citizens,” TSA deputy administrator John Halinski, himself a 25-year Marine Corps veteran, said in a statement.
In order to receive the expedited service, wounded soldiers or their travelling companions must contact the Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operations Center prior with their itinerary prior to traveling.
According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said that the accommodation expansion was in the works prior to a mid-March incident in which a wheelchair-bound Marine was “humiliated” by the airport screening process.
The incident, which was reported to California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, was detailed in a complaint letter the congressman sent to TSA. The situation received national media coverage.
Following a conversation with Halinski about the incident, Hunter said he was assured of the deputy administrator’s commitment to wounded warriors.
“Based on our conversation and the level of detail provided, I have no doubt about Director Halinski’s commitment to providing for the care of our war wounded and his interest in ensuring veterans are treated with respect,” Hunter said in a statement on March 20.
“TSA has been working to improve screening procedures for wounded veterans and service members, which began before the specific report I received and conveyed, and I look forward to TSA’s action in the coming days,” he added. “The TSA already maintains a wounded warrior program and operation center and building on this program will help serve the interests of
veterans across the country.”
In 2005, TSA instituted a “Wounded Warrior” screening program to help simplify the security process and ensure it affords “empathy and respect” to injured soldiers, according to a TSAwebsite.
“We’ve had a wounded warrior program in place for some time to assist injured members of the military through the checkpoint process,” TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez said, according to NBC News. “Starting now, in airports with or without TSA PreCheck lanes, these heroes will be escorted to and through the checkpoints and will not have to remove hats, caps, light jackets or shoes.”
According to NBC News, last year TSA screened 7,000 severely injured military members.