TSA speeds airport screening for wounded soldiers

LOS ANGELES — Wounded soldiers and veterans can now go through airport screening gates without removing shoes, hats or light jackets, the Transportation Security Administration announced.

The TSA’s decision to ease screening for wounded soldiers comes about two weeks after the agency came under harsh criticism over the way TSA screened a U.S. Marine in a wheelchair at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

In the March 13 incident, critics of TSA say that screeners forced the Marine to remove his prosthetic legs and then put them back on to walk through a full-body scanner.

After investigating the incident and reviewing video of the Marine’s screening, the TSA said the Marine was not asked to remove his prosthetic legs and that the screening took a total of eight minutes. The Marine, Cpl. Toran Gaal, has not filed a complaint or claim against the agency, the TSA said.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said the new procedure has been in development for a while and was not created in response to the Phoenix incident.

In the past, wounded soldiers were allowed to move to the front of the screening line but were still required to undergo the same screening procedures as other travelers.

Under the new procedure, wounded soldiers and veterans who contact the TSA before arriving at an airport ( msijsoc@dhs.gov or 1-888-262-2396) will be escorted from the curb to the screening gates. The TSA will confirm the identity of the travelers using a U.S. Department of Defense database.

The soldiers won’t be required to remove their shoes, hats or light jackets during screening. TSA agents will then escort the soldiers to their gate.

The TSA pointed out that more than 10,000 veterans work for the agency and that the two agents who screened the Marine in Phoenix were both military veterans.

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