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Starting today, injured service members no longer will need to remove their shoes, jackets or hats at airport security checkpoints, but they must call ahead to qualify for the perk.
The Transportation Security Administration said injured troops and veterans or their traveling companions can contact the Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operations Center, at MSIJSOC@dhs.gov or (888)262-2396, before they travel to request the benefit.
Those accompanying injured troops and veterans still will have to pass through regular screening.
“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, a retired Marine colonel, said Wednesday.
The new process is offered in addition to the escorted “curb-to-gate service” that injured or ill personnel can request from TSA and is similar to rules that apply to active-duty troops in uniform, who also aren’t required to remove their shoes and boots when passing through security scanners.
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said the change has been in the works for several months, predating a March 13 incident at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, in which service members accompanying a wheelchair-bound Marine complained of mistreatment by TSA screeners.
Members of that traveling party told Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., that the Marine was made to remove his prosthetics and also stand, despite an inability to do so. Hunter later spoke with Halinski and was assured of TSA’s “commitment to helping veterans.”
“TSA has been working to improve screening procedures for wounded veterans and service members. I look forward to TSA’s action in the coming days,” Hunter said March 20 in a written statement.
The new policy is available to any service members or veterans with injuries or mobility issues, regardless of when they served, Melendez said.
TSA offers its TSA Pre program — an initiative that lets travelers use designated security lanes and keep on shoes, jackets and belts — to any service member with a military common access card at four airports: Charlotte Douglas International Airport; Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; and Washington Dulles International Airport.
According to TSA, 7,000 troops and former service members have used TSA escorts and expedited screening programs since they were instituted, 776 in February alone.
“We continue to fine tune what we had in place to ensure all wounded warriors are treated with the respect they deserve,” Melendez said.