Pryor introduces bill to make airport screenings easier for veterans

      WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced a bill this week meant to help make the airport screening process easier for wounded and severely disabled veterans and service members.

      The "Helping Our Heroes Fly Act," a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), is a partner bill to a measure that unanimously passed the U.S. House in May.

      "For our wounded warriors, the airport screening process can be lengthy,invasive, embarrassing, and sometimes painful," Pryor said. "Our bipartisanbill will help ease this process and ensure our nation's heroes are treatedwith dignity and respect."

      In response to concerns raised by wounded warriors about the length andinvasiveness of the airport security process, the Transportation SecurityAdministration (TSA) created the Wounded Warrior/Military Severely InjuredJoint Services Operation Center Program (MSIJSOC). Through this program, severelyinjured or disabled service members, veterans, and family members can contactthe program's Operation Center at TSA before a flight to arrange for aspecialized and dignified screening process.

      According to the TSA, the number of wounded warriors using the MSIJSOC programis steadily increasing, with approximately 4,252 in 2011 and 5,914 in 2012. TheHelping Heroes Fly Act would build on this success by requiring the TSA tomaintain the Operations Center. It would also make improvements to the programby requiring the TSA to take into account privacy preferences, provide trainingto all screeners, and improve communications with advocacy organizations.Finally, it would mandate that TSA report to Congress on its progress inimplementing the screening program.