A letter sent to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by National Commander Larry A. Polzin has led to greater leniency in the screening of active-duty and veteran amputees flying on the nation’s airlines.
Polzin objected to the TSA’s security screening procedures for veterans who use prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and scooters boarding aircraft. “Some screeners have required these amputees to expose their prostheses when they lack the ability to reposition their clothing, and TSA agents are not allowed to help them, nor do they allow spouses or traveling companions to enter private search areas to assist the amputees,” Polzin said in a March 8 letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
As a result, the agency announced March 27 that it would offer expedited screening to severely injured veterans, allowing them to move through security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light outerwear or hats. The TSA also said it would allow someone to accompany an amputee during a private screening.
Daniel McCann, the head of TSA’s Office of Security Operations, wrote Polzin on April 4 that amputees may have a companion accompany them into the private screening area and remain through the screening process to assist the veterans in repositioning any displaced clothing. “The Transportation Security Officers performing the pat-down will not require or ask the veteran to remove the prostheses,” McCann wrote. “However, the Transportation Security Officers may need to touch the prosthesis as part of the screening process.”
In his letter, Polzin cited a screening of National 4th Junior Vice Commander David Riley, a quadruple amputee, in which he was required to lower his trousers, removing his belt and suspenders. “He could not reattach them or pull his trousers up,” said Polzin. “On another occasion, a TSA agent asked him to remove one of his prosthetic
legs. That is a shameful way to treat a veteran who has sacrificed so greatly for our nation.”
Polzin urged Napolitano to provide a “consistent, respectable and dignified way to allow veterans to undergo screening without having to prove their prosthetic devices pose no threat.
“Mr. Riley is one of many who travel extensively on behalf of DAV,” he said. “He deserves all the respect and dignity that the TSA can afford him in all security screenings. He should not be asked to remove the prosthetic devices that give him mobility and then be left to his own devices to put them back on, using only the prosthetic claws
available to him.”
Polzin urged Napolitano to provide special training for TSA screeners in dealing with veteran amputees and how they should be treated. McCann said the TSA has redesigned its new-hire training program to emphasize proper screening techniques for injured and ill active-duty service members and veterans.
McCann said the program would emphasize courtesy that will help new-hire Transportation Security officers better assess veterans’ specific needs through the screening
“It is gratifying to see the TSA act quickly in response to our call to treat our veterans right, while at the same time, protecting the safety of our nation’s flying public,” Polzin
said. “Never should a veteran be treated with such callous actions that Dave Riley and many others have encountered.”