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Thursday, September 12, 2019 1:00 am

Young's disabled vets TSA bill OK'd

Senate advances no-cost screening program

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The U.S. Senate has approved bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., that would relax airport security screening for military veterans with certain disabilities.

The Senate advanced by unanimous consent the Veterans Expedited TSA Screening (VETS) Safe Travel Act on Tuesday evening.

Young's legislation would extend the Transportation Security Administration's TSA PreCheck screening program at no cost to veterans who are amputees, paralyzed or blind. The program is available at no cost to active-duty military personnel, Reserves and National Guard members.

Young said Wednesday in a statement that he had sworn as a Marine “always to remain faithful to those serving by my side. That includes ensuring our veterans receive the care and respect they are due after they return home. The passage of this bill has the potential to help the 70,000 amputee, 100,000 paralyzed, and 130,000 blind veterans currently subjected to a rigorous and demeaning screening process when traveling.”

TSA PreCheck allows members to go through airport security screening without removing their shoes, belts or light jackets or taking laptops or liquids out of carry-on bags. The program costs $85 for a five-year membership.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., the original co-sponsor of Young's bill, said in a statement that the VETS Safe Travel Act would make air travel “a little easier and less intrusive” for disabled veterans.

“For those of us who rely on prosthetics and wheelchairs for mobility, air travel and passing through airport security can be a challenge,” said Duckworth, who lost her legs in 2004 when the Army helicopter she was flying was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by insurgents in Iraq.

Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., are co-sponsors of the legislation. A House version of the bill is under consideration in that chamber.

Young and Duckworth said their legislation is supported by the veterans advocacy organizations Wounded Warrior Project, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Honor Flight Network, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VetsFirst and the American Legion.

bfrancisco@jg.net