Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the bipartisan, bicameral Helping Heroes Fly Act (H.R. 1344). This widely supported measure improves airport security screening processes for wounded and severely disabled service members and veterans. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, introduced the bill as her first piece of legislation in the House in March and led its unanimous passage fewer than two months later.
The legislation was introduced in the Senate last week by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). Clarifying amendments were made before unanimous passage in the Senate, requiring the House to pass the legislation again. This final approval today allows the bill to be sent to the President for his signature.
"The passage of this bill today will improve the lives of those who have served our country so bravely," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. "This has been a strong bipartisan effort, where Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate came together with unwavering and unanimous support for our wounded warriors and the Helping Heroes Fly Act. This is an example of what can be accomplished when we set aside differences and work together for the good of our nation."
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced the legislation after hearing from advocates of members of the Armed Forces, and veterans themselves about inconsistencies in the screening of wounded warriors by the Transportation Security Administration. Some gave troubling accounts of having to remove clothing and prosthetics in view of other passengers or having to awkwardly go through screening machines without the benefit of a prosthetic leg or limb.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee said, "Service members and veterans deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. The Helping Heroes Fly Act will ensure that this is what they receive in TSA airport screening process. I applaud Representative Gabbard for her work on this bill and tireless advocacy for her fellow service members. Likewise, I also want to thank Senator Pryor for working in a bipartisan manner to get swift action on this bill in the Senate so that we can get the bill to the President before the recess. Passage of this measure sends a message to all Americans that, even at this time of discord and dysfunction, Congress can do the right thing."
"There is nothing more frustrating than to see these heroes returning home after defending our nation only to have to go through secondary screening in our airports. It's offensive and insulting," said Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman. "The Helping Heroes Fly Act will put an end to this and treat our wounded warriors with the dignity they deserve."
"I am extremely pleased that Congress has passed the Helping Heroes Fly Act, legislation that will make a difference in the lives of our wounded heroes," said Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), an original cosponsor of the legislation. "This country has a duty to honor all veterans, especially those who are wounded and disabled. Once President Obama signs this bill into law, TSA will put in place expedited screening procedures for wounded warriors and severely injured veterans to ensure that those who sacrificed so much for their country are treated with respect and dignity while traveling. I am extremely proud that we passed meaningful legislation to alleviate the burden of unnecessary screening procedures for our heroes."
"As Chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, I'm pleased we were able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to pass this bill, which is critical to ensuring our wounded warriors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve," said Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC).
"While we'll never be able to repay our heroic servicemen and women for the sacrifices they've made in the line of duty, it should be our top priority to make their lives back home as easy and comfortable as possible," said Congressman David Joyce (R-OH), an original cosponsor of the legislation. "Now we'll be able to ensure that our wounded warriors are able to get through airport security quickly and comfortably and avoid any disruptive or difficult screening practices. America's servicemen and women are the best and brightest in the world and deserve a comfortable transition back home for protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day."
The Helping Heroes Fly Act has been endorsed by the American Legion, Disabled Veterans of American, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the American Federation of Government Employees.