The Transportation Security Administration is disputing a portion of a congressman’s complaint letter to the agency about a Marine who felt “humiliated” by how he was treated by TSA security agents while going through a security check point.
The TSA said that — despite a report detailed in California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter’s letter to the TSA claiming that the Marine was made to remove his prosthetics — video footage of the screening at the Sky Harbor International Airport does not show the Marine being forced to do so.
“After reviewing TSA video [closed circuit television], interviewing and receiving written statements from all Officers involved, we found that the soldier was not asked and did not remove his prosthetic legs,” TSA posted on their blog Wednesday evening. “The screening was done by the book and lasted a total of 8 minutes from beginning to end.”
TSA noted that the agency officers who screened the active-duty double amputee Marine were themselves military veterans.
“We have the greatest respect for our men and women serving in the military and strive to screen them with the dignity they deserve,” TSA added.
While the the TSA says the Marine was not made to remove his legs, Hunter’s office explained to The Daily Caller that the letter was informed by a complaint about the incident from a Marine veteran that was escorting the group of Marines the individual was with. His office added that the main concerns about the fact that the Marine was left feeling “humiliated,” and about the policies the agency has in place to deal with individuals in similar circumstances.
“If whatever video they have shows no evidence of removing the prosthetics, it doesn’t account for the other problems this group faced throughout the screening process,” Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said.
Kendra Calhoun, the president and CEO of the Amputee Coalition of America, explained to TheDC that in 2010 the Amputee Coalition helped to get TSA to implement more sensitive policies dealing with amputees. One of these new policies, she said, is that amputees do not have to remove their prosthetic devices when going through screenings
Calhoun added that while her coalition has seen complaints reduced since 2010, they still have concerns about sensitivity at TSA.
“What we hear most often from our amputee fliers is there is a lack of respect, and I think part of that is a lack of training around managing a disability population. I know this year TSA has started to do additional training around that — where they used to develop an hour or two, now they are developing a significant amount of time to,” she said.
Calhoun then said that while she does not have details about the circumstances of this Marine, she believes there still needs to be more sensitivity training.
On Wednesday, Hunter spoke with TSA Deputy Administrator John W. Halinski about the Marine’s plight.
“Based on our conversation and the level of detail provided, I have no doubt about Director Halinski’s commitment to providing for the care of our war wounded and his interest in ensuring veterans are treated with respect,” he said in a statement following a conversation with Halinski. “TSA has been working to improve screening procedures for wounded veterans and service members, which began before the specific report I received and conveyed, and I look forward to TSA’s action in the coming days.”
“The TSA already maintains a wounded warrior program and operation center and building on this program will help serve the interests of veterans across the country,” he added.
Calhoun added that while TSA has made progress, it still has work to do in making the screening process more disability-friendly.
“It is hard to legislate respect, consistency, or common sense and I think those are things we are looking for, our population is looking for is respect and I think most travelers would probably tell you that too. It is very disrespectful and there is no consistency,” she said.