DALLAS — As the summer travel season gets under way, the Transportation Security Administration is turning down more claims in its little-known reimbursement program for travelers who have items stolen at checkpoints or during baggage screening.
The TSA said it's currently reviewing 2,300 claims.
But over the last five years, the TSA began rejecting more claims — from about half of all submitted in 2005 to three-quarters of them in 2009.
In that time, the number of claims has also gradually diminished as well, averaging about 12,000 annually.
Jason Lowe, a married father of two who works in Dallas, currently has a claim pending with the TSA.
Flying back from Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, TSA agents randomly selected him for extra screening when departing from John Wayne Airport in Southern California.
Lowe said that's when someone must have snatched his wallet from a bin by the X-ray machine while he was separated from it.
"At this moment, the only people I can hold responsible is the TSA," Lowe concluded.
The thief got away with his identification, credit cards, and $500 in cash.
What he didn't know until now is that the TSA has quietly reimbursed tens of thousands of travelers who have experienced similar thefts.
In 2010 alone, the TSA paid out $582,721 to resolve 2,737 claims.
"I hope that it was just a passenger that grabbed it and walked off with it," Lowe said. "I would much rather think that than think that an employee of the TSA could have done it."
So far, no one suspects have been developed in Lowe's case.
The TSA said it has a zero-tolerance policy for thefts in the workplace. From May 2003 to October 2009, it fired 330 Transportation Security Officers for theft; it employs 50,000.
Since 2003, the TSA said it has received 149,924 claims for lost, missing or damaged items. Full or partial payment was only made in 36 percent of those cases. The average check written was for $192.14, the TSA said.
The TSA points out it only gets about 45 claims from the 2.5 million bags it screens every day.
Still, it streamlined procedures, said it trained claims adjusters to better understand the screening process, and improved incident reporting. That's why the TSA said it now rejects three-quarters of all requests.
Lowe filed a claim despite that, wrote his congressman, and racked his brain for what he could have done differently... never guessing that taking a vacation would make him a statistic.
No Texas airport is in the top 10 for claims filed. New York's JFK Airport has the most, followed by Orlando, Los Angeles International, Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, Newark, Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Seattle.