FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2017 CONTACT: Tracey Lynn Shifflett
Paralyzed Veterans of America Challenges Administration Rollback of Protections for Disabled Air Travelers
Lawsuit Filed After Administration Delays Rule Intended to Hold Airlines Accountable for Losing, Damaging Wheelchairs
WASHINGTON, DC— Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) today filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for abruptly rolling back a rule intended to make airline travel safer and easier for passengers with disabilities. The rule, which requires domestic airlines to track and report data on lost and damaged wheelchairs and scooters, was delayed by the Administration without seeking input from people with disabilities.
“Too often, Paralyzed Veterans of America hears reports on how disabled veterans are reluctant to board planes, fearing their wheelchairs will be damaged or get lost during transport,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America National President David Zurfluh. “Wheelchairs are not a luxury. It’s just like having your legs end up in one city when you land in another, if you can imagine that. Wheelchairs replace functionality and provide independence. Having your only means of leaving the plane get lost or damaged is demoralizing. It is a significant issue for all travelers with mobility limitations, and one Paralyzed Veterans of America will not relent on until it’s fixed. Persons with disabilities don’t pay lesser costs for travel, so their experience should be as dignified and as comfortable as everyone else’s. This is especially true for those whose missing limbs and paralysis were the result of military service.”
DOT originally published the rule in November 2016, following a five-year rulemaking process that included input from air travelers, consumer and disability advocacy groups, and airlines. The rule was scheduled for implementation in January 2018. In March 2017, DOT abruptly delayed the rule’s implementation date by one year, until January 2019, without providing the public any notice or opportunity to comment, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. DOT claimed the delay was necessary due to implementation “challenges” faced by the airline industry. However, the only evidence of these challenges DOT presented was a single email the agency received from the airline industry.
Since DOT’s decision, Paralyzed Veterans of America has informed Administration officials and members of Congress about how the rule’s delay will hurt people with disabilities and asked that DOT allow these critical protections to move forward.
Together with the complaint, Paralyzed Veterans of America filed a motion to reinstate the rule’s original effective date.
The case will be filed on July 31, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
About Paralyzed Veterans
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (pva.org).