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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:04 AM ET, 11/29/2011

Bill would make TSA screening of U.S. troops faster


A TSA agent waves passengers toward a security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Elaine Thompson - AP)
Updated 11:53 a.m. ET

Military troops traveling on official orders may soon be able to quickly pass through long lines at airport security checkpoints.

Eye Opener

The House is slated to vote tonight on a bill that would require the Transportation Security Administration to develop a process to more quickly screen uniformed troops and their families traveling through airports on official orders.

The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of The Armed Forces Act, introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), cleared a House committee in September.

“Our soldiers who are putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere should be afforded extra respect when returning home to their loved ones and shouldn’t be viewed as potential terrorists in our airports,” Cravaack said at the time.

Any service members traveling in uniform and with military identification do not have to remove their boots while passing through screening and may be accompanied to a gate by family members. Veterans traveling on honor flights to visit Washington-area memorials may also enjoy expedited screening, according to TSA.

On Nov. 15, TSA launched a pilot program at the Monterrey Peninsula Airport in California where the agency is testing a card reader to positively identify service members in good standing. Troops using the card reader are not receiving expedited screening, but are instead helping test the card reader for wider use, TSA said.

With those changes already underway, Cravaack’s bill would essentially codify in law a policy shift already underway for troops and other qualified groups of people.

Since July, TSA has tested a frequent-traveler program at four airports that permits passengers who are members of certain airline frequent-flier clubs to quickly pass through checkpoints if they provide certain personal information in advance. A similar program for airline pilots and crew has also signed up more than 59,000 participants, according to TSA. And after widespread criticism, the agency is also permitting young children to wear their shoes while passing through metal detectors or body-imaging machines.

In a separate bill, the House is also expected to vote Tuesday on a measure that would expand workers compensation benefits for federal employees injured on the job.

The Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act, introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) in July, would for the first time permit compensation for medical, surgical, and hospital services and supplies provided by physician assistants and advanced practice nurses. And in a nod to the changing threats faced by government employees, the bill would make workers disabled or killed by a terrorist attack eligible for federal worker compensation. It also would provide continued compensation for federal workers who file for losses due to injuries suffered in a war zone.

A separate Senate measure, introduced this year by Susan Collins (R-Maine), would radically overhaul the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), by moving eligible recipients into either of the two federal worker retirement programs and provide benefits to workers only for time served before an injury.

Collins has long argued that too many postal and federal employees who no longer suffer from eligible work-related injuries are abusing the system by improperly collecting benefits.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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By  |  06:04 AM ET, 11/29/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Congress, Workplace Issues

 
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