A Colorado Springs woman infuriated by the way an airport security screener treated her disabled, elderly mother said she got exactly what she expected after complaining to the Transportation Security Administration:
"A very long brushoff."
In a two-page letter sent to Sally Moon on Tuesday, the federal government's security director at Denver International Airport defended the actions of screeners and aimed some blame at an airline employee who apparently pushed Bernice "Bea" Bogart's wheelchair into the wrong security line.
"Exactly what I got - that response - was exactly what I expected," Moon said a short time after receiving the letter. "It's just a brushoff, except that it's a very long brushoff."
Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Carrie Harmon declined to discuss the specifics of Bogart's case, citing privacy rules.
"We work very hard to ensure that each person's special needs are met," she said.
The trouble started about 6 p.m. March 25 as Moon was attempting to get her mother through security for a flight to Nashville.
After turning her back for a moment, she said, she was horrified to find that her 83-year-old mother - a survivor of breast cancer, a broken hip and a major stroke - was out of her wheelchair and walking. Bogart was carrying a card that said she had a metal plate in her hip. And her daughter said she wasn't supposed to stand up without assistance.
When Moon tried to intercede, she said, she was met with a bark from a screener who told her not to touch her mother and made other caustic comments.
Moon filed a formal complaint, believing that it would probably go nowhere.
Then came the letter from Patrick Ahlstrom, federal security director at DIA.
"I greatly regret any distress that you or your mother experienced . . . while being screened by TSA," Ahlstrom wrote.
He contended that a Frontier Airlines employee pushing Bogart's wheelchair put her into the wrong security line. He also said that Bogart got out of her wheelchair after she was asked by a screener if she could walk.
"Had your mother indicated that she was unable to stand, her air carrier attendant would have taken her to the wheelchair lane," Ahlstrom wrote.
"The fact is my Mom can't hear, so there is no way she heard someone ask if she could walk," she said. "There's no way she heard that."
Ahlstrom also noted that Moon attempted to touch her mother - something she acknowledges - and said that violated security screening procedures.
"If our TSO (transportation security officer) was stern when she explained this security protocol to you, we very much apologize," Ahlstrom wrote.
He also said that a review of the videotape of the incident showed "that your mother's screening process proceeded without any incident or problem" and contained "no evidence" that a TSA officer pushed up Bogart's arm, as Moon contended.
None of it placated Moon.
"It's just a constant blame somebody else," she said.
Frontier Airlines spokesman Joe Hodas said the worker who pushed Bogart through security was not aware of any designated lane for people in wheelchairs.
"It could have easily been corrected by (TSA) saying, 'She's in a wheelchair. Could you please send her through the appropriate line?' and we would have been happy to comply," Hodas said. "We are deeply regretful that one of our passengers had a bad experience."
To come up with guidelines for screening people with special needs, the TSA's Harmon said, the agency had worked with more than 40 groups that advocate for the disabled
Before that process, she said, "there were no consistent security procedures for screening individuals with disabilities, along with their equipment and medical supplies."
She said that during the past four years, TSA has received "fewer than a half-dozen complaint letters" about the security screening process.
As for where it goes from here, Moon wasn't sure Tuesday.
She was considering filing a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the videotape of the incident. A lawsuit is out of the question, so continuing to push it, she said, would serve no purpose - "other than to just prove my point."
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