Obama Signed the “Helping Heroes Fly Act” on Friday
Iraq war veteran and democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii introduced and sponsored the “Helping Heroes Fly Act” bill, with Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire leading the Senate effort, in March 2013. On Friday, President Obama signed it into law.
The goal of the new law is to make it easier for wounded or disabled members of the military and veterans to get through airport security screening. Under the new law, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (via the TSA) “shall develop and implement a process to support and facilitate the ease of travel and to the extent possible provide expedited passenger screening services for severely injured or disabled members of the Armed Forces and severely injured or disabled veterans through passenger screening. The process shall be designed to offer the individual private screening to the maximum extent practicable.” (Read Act in PDF here.)
The Assistant Secretary shall report annually to Congress on implementation of this new program, no later than one year after the Act’s enactment.
But Doesn’t TSA Already Have Such a Policy?
Rewind back to March 2013 (ironically days after Rep. Gabbard introduced the bill) when the TSA released its press release: “TSA to Provide Additional Expedited Screening Benefits for Wounded Warriors”
“Starting today [March 27, 2013] at airports nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will offer expedited screening to severely injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces. In addition to offering curb to gate service for our nation’s Wounded Warriors, these individuals will also be eligible to move through security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light outerwear jackets or hats.”
My guess is that the new Helping Heroes Fly Act will be aimed at further policy changes and procedure updates to increase the ease, speed, comfort and privacy for our disabled heroes, especially at screening locations without PreCheck expedited lanes.
Security Officers’ Union Reacts
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) responded in full support of the Act “because of its language that addresses the needs of America’s veterans while traveling through airport security and the training opportunities it provides for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).”
“TSOs are committed to protecting the safety and security of the flying public, especially our nation’s veterans,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., who is also the chairman of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council. “About one-quarter of the TSO workforce is comprised of veterans–many of them veterans of the recent military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. They continued their service to the public by working on the front lines of air security at the Transportation Security Administration. With the passage of the Helping Heroes Fly Act they look forward to ensuring that the wounded warriors they encounter at checkpoint are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve during the screening process.”