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Gabbard and Hirono See Success With First Legislation

May 21, 2013, 1:26 PM HST (Updated May 21, 2013, 6:14 PM)
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Forget the old adage; apparently the first time is the charm for two members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation.

The US House of Representatives today unanimously passed a bill introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to expedite airport security screening for wounded and severely disabled veterans and service members.

Gabbard said the bill was the first piece of legislation she introduced after being elected to the House last year.

H.R. 1344, also known as the Helping Heroes Fly Act, directs the Transportation Security Administration to develop a process to “facilitate the ease of travel and to the extent possible provide expedited passenger screening services” for severely injured or disabled veterans or active members of the Armed Forces, and their accompanying family members or non-medical attendants.

“For our wounded warriors and their families, airline travel will now be a much more dignified experience,” Gabbard said in a statement.

“Due to the nature of their injuries and disabilities, removing a belt, shoe or jacket can be more than just an inconvenience,” she said.

“These selfless heroes should never have to face lengthy, invasive, and even humiliating screening procedures at our airports. The Helping Heroes Fly Act is a strong step toward ensuring they do not face unnecessary hardships after having served our country with courage and dignity. I will push for the bill to be considered and passed in the U.S. Senate and signed by the president into law.”

Gabbard, a captain in the Hawaii National Guard who has served two tours in Iraq, is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Gabbard said she introduced the bill after hearing from service members and veterans that the TSA’s current “Wounded Warrior Screening Program” needed improvement.

“This act mandates that TSA make every effort to protect the privacy of wounded warriors and ensure that our nation’s heroes are shown their due respect and appreciation,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee today adopted the first bill introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono after she moved over from the House following the 2012 election.

The measure proposed by Hirono in March would help reunite Filipino veterans of World War II with their families.

Hirono noted that thousands of Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the United States in World War II. Their children, however, were not granted citizenship.

As a result, the veterans who came to the United States could only sponsor their children by filing a petition and “getting in line.”

Hirono said some of those Filipino immigration applications have languished for more than 20 years, and those veterans – now in their 80s and 90s – have had to wait in the US without their children for many years.

“Our nation can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside Americans in the critical South West Pacific Theatre,” Hirono said in a statement.

“The brave servicemen who are still with us, now in their 80s and 90s, should not have to wait any longer in order to be reunited with their children,” she said.

The amendment, like a measure Hirono introduced to restore Medicaid eligibility for compact migrants passed by the Judiciary Committee a week ago, is part of a package of immigration reform legislation to be taken up by the full Senate.

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