The last couple of years when I’ve traveled by commercial airline here in the states, during the screening process, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel have required that my shoes be removed so that they can be screened along with whatever else my spouse and I were carrying on to the plane. This was aggravating more to me than it was to my wife, because as a somewhat functional quadriplegic, I was trained to put on and remove my footwear in bed. It’s just plain easier.
Of course, we complied and we boarded the aircraft ahead of non-disabled passengers as we requested without incident. But last month the TSA posted a page on its website titled “Wounded Warrior Accommodations,” subtitle “Special Considerations.” The agency has established the Wounded Warrior/Military Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center program to “support and facilitate the movement of severely injured service members and veterans (emphasis added by yours truly) through the security screening process at our nation’s airports.”
If you are a severely injured veteran, after you have made your flight arrangements, either you or another family member or other “representative” (traveling companion, personal care attendant, etc.) should contact the Operations Center to provide the details of your travel itinerary. The TSA would prefer that you contact them by e-mail at MSIJSOC@dhs.gov. You also have the option to call them toll-free at 888-262-2396. The Operations Center will acknowledge the request by replying either by e-mail or by telephone.
Personally, I would recommend that you contact them by e-mail. This way, you can print out a copy of their reply e-mail to you, and take it with you to your airport. I know that I’m somewhat old-fashioned, but I’d rather have that reply e-mail to show TSA personnel as opposed to arguing with someone at the screening process.
The last step in this process is for the TSA to notify the Federal Security Directors at the airports involved in your travel plans. Federal Security Directors ensure that the screening process is carried out with empathy and respect, so that the overall airport screening experience for severely injured service members and veterans, and all other travelers as well, goes as smoothly as possible.
I have no real idea if what I’m about to write in conclusion is sound advice or not, but it hopefully cannot hurt. If you use a VA health care facility for any reason, you should have a photo identification card provided by that facility. Bring it with you when you travel by commercial airline. Or, if you are retired military due to disability, you should have a retired military photo identification card. Take it with you next time you fly.
Every American who travels by commercial airline knows that it can be a hassle sometimes. With some luck, these new TSA boarding procedures can make travel by air easier “for those who have borne the battle…”
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee