U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) this week teamed up to introduce The Helping Our Heroes Fly Act, a bipartisan bill that would improve the airport screening process for wounded and severely disabled service members and veterans.
"For our wounded warriors, the airport screening process can be lengthy, invasive, embarrassing, and sometimes painful," Pryor said. "Our bipartisan bill will help ease this process and ensure our nation's heroes are treated with dignity and respect."
"America's wounded and disabled service members are heroes - and they should be treated as such," said Senator Ayotte. "Our legislation would help improve their experience at airport security checkpoints by ensuring screeners have proper training, addressing privacy concerns, and encouraging better communication with advocacy groups."
In response to concerns raised by wounded warriors about the length and invasiveness of the airport security process, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created the Wounded Warrior/Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operation Center Program (MSIJSOC). Through this program, severely injured or disabled service members, veterans, and family members can contact the program's Operation Center at TSA before a flight to arrange for a specialized and dignified screening process.
According to the TSA, the number of wounded warriors using the MSIJSOC program is steadily increasing, with approximately 4,252 in 2011 and 5,914 in 2012. The Helping Heroes Fly Act would build on this success by requiring the TSA to maintain the Operations Center. It would also make improvements to the program by requiring the TSA to take into account privacy preferences, provide training to all screeners, and improve communications with advocacy organizations. Finally, it would mandate that TSA report to Congress on its progress in implementing the screening program. In May, the House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of companion legislation.