Traveling with a medical device to the United States

Published on: Aug 26, 2021, Last Edited: Aug 26, 2021 | Tags: Airport Security, Airline Safety

Traveling with medical supplies and equipment might sometimes be cumbersome, but it's not impossible. Below are a couple of tips that should make the process easier.

Individuals who travel with an external medical device, e.g. a port or feeding tube, should inform the security staff about this when they arrive at the checkpoint. They will then help you to get properly screened, and apply a second screening to the medical device while you are passing through the checkpoint.

If you are wearing an internal medical device, e.g. a pacemaker, you should inform the security officer about this before your screening. He or she can then ensure that you will be screened properly, so you can proceed to the boarding area without any delays.

Tips for travelers with medical devices, disabilities or medical conditions

Travelers with medical conditions or disabilities who have to use one or more medical devices have no reason to look at a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) checkpoint as a hindrance to traveling. The truth is that it's fine to travel with a breast pump or a CPAP machine. And if you need to travel with an ostomy pouch or an insulin pump, there is no reason not to fly. People with temporary medical conditions, e.g. someone with a broken leg, should not let a TSA checkpoint deter them either.

The fact of the matter is that all travelers have to be screened at the checkpoint. Travelers with a medical condition or a disability, or his or her traveling partner, are free to discuss the best possible way to address any concerns they might have about the screening process with a TSA officer. Travelers can provide this officer with medical documentation such as a TSA notification card that discretely describes the condition they are suffering from. They may also ask for an accommodation to the security screening procedure.

If a traveler with a medical condition, medical device or disability gets approval to use TSA Pre✓®, they do not have to remove laptops, shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, or light jackets before getting screened. It is, however, compulsory for everyone to be screened at the checkpoint, either by a pat-down or by using technology. TSA officers are also allowed to swab a traveler's equipment, mobility aids, hands and all external medical devices in order to test for explosives. This will involve the use of explosives trace detection technology.

Individuals with medical conditions and disabilities do not have to remove their shoes if they suffer from a medical condition or are disabled. Shoes must, however, pass a second screening, including a physical/visual inspection plus an explosives trace detection test. You may ask to be seated during this part of the screening.

Exclusions – Liquids are not considered medical devices

It should be noted that liquid medications are allowed to pass through the checkpoint, but they will be screened. If the total weight is more than 3.4 ounces, these liquids will have to pass through a second screening process. You should also declare them once you get to the checkpoint. Related items, e.g. syringes, will be allowed through the checkpoint, but they will also have to be screened.

The top five TSA resources

The TSA has a number of resources for individuals with disabilities or who travel with medical conditions and/or medical devices to make sure they will be able to pass through security screening with dignity, in the shortest possible time, and without any hassles.

The list includes the TSA Contact Center, TSA Cares Helpline, information shared on the www.tsa.gov website, Passenger Support Specialists, and interactive Facebook Messenger and Twitter accounts.

TSA Contact Center - This is a call center individuals can contact with their questions, either by email at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov or via a toll-free telephone line at 1-866-289-9673. There is also an automated service, which is available around the clock, from Monday to Sunday.

TSA Cares - A toll-free helpline at 1-855-787-2227, provides a service where travelers with medical conditions or disabilities or their family members can get answers to questions they might have about screening procedures and policies, and what they should expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours before embarking on a trip. Injured service members and veterans, including those involved with the Wounded Warrior Program, are welcome to contact TSA Cares to assist with facilitating the screening process. By contacting this helpline with their questions, travelers can take a lot of the anxiety out of the equation and arrive at the airport knowing exactly what to expect from the screening process.

Passenger Support Specialists - These are thoroughly trained TSA officials at airports who have received in-depth training in screening and engaging with travelers who have medical conditions or disabilities, or who are traveling with one or more medical devices. Individuals who have concerns about the airport's security screening process, or who need accommodations to the screening procedure, are allowed to request on-the-spot assistance from a Passenger Support Specialist or to ask for a Supervisory TSA Officer.

TSA Website - There are sections dedicated to providing information on traveling with medical conditions, disabilities and medical devices on the official TSA website. These sections contain a wide variety of useful information. Look for the drop-down menu that allows website visitors to choose detailed information on the particular situation they have questions about. Examples include traveling with aphasia, dementia, Alzheimer's, or a brain injury; medications; intellectual disability or autism, low vision or blindness; hard of hearing or deafness; use of internal or external medical devices, or implants; mobility disabilities, devices and aids; support appliances, braces, casts, or prostheses; recent use of radioactive materials or medications; use of service animals, including dogs; respiratory equipment.

Twitter account - TSA also runs a very useful interactive Twitter account with the username @AskTSA. This provides a platform where anyone can post questions about the screening process for medical conditions and medical devices, from passing through a checkpoint if you wear an ostomy pouch beneath your clothing to traveling with a temporary medical condition such as a cast on a broken leg or arm. Travelers who have questions about any aspect of the screening process can get live assistance from a TSA employee every day of the year via this Twitter account. Another option is to use Facebook Messenger to send your comments or questions to the TSA.

Conclusion

Whether you have a temporary or permanent disability or are embarking on a trip with somebody who suffers from a disability, there are many procedures in place today to help make your trip to the United States easier and more pleasant. With proper planning and by empowering yourself with the information contained in this article, you have a better chance to streamline your journey. Be prepared, know your rights, and get help from the right people if you experience issues or have questions.

References

  1. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures

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