Air Marshals 'Missing Missions' Due to Health Problems

U.S. government officials said nearly 2,100 federal air marshals have been sidelined by injuries incurred in the line of duty.

The injuries -- which include barotrauma, decompression sickness, sinus conditions and deep vein thrombosis -- have led many Federal Air Marshal Service medical staffers to resign in frustration, The Washington Times reported Wednesday. The illnesses have been attributed to the heavy flying schedule of the marshals, the newspaper said.

The Transportation Security Administration responded to the report, saying the marshal's "hours are consistent with other commercial aviation flight crews." A TSA spokeswoman attributed the increase in the number of marshals receiving workers' compensation to the rapid expansion of the program.

The Times cited a July 21, 2005, memo from the service's Charlotte, N.C., field office that said it was "experiencing a large amount of missed missions due to federal air marshals calling in sick and medical groundings by physicians."

Some marshals complained they were fired due to injuries and were being denied workers compensation, the Times said. But the TSA said 65 to 70 percent of the claims were resolved with little or no medical intervention.

Frank Terreri, director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association for the Federal Air Marshal Service, said the department has a "track record" of firing injured employees.

"As soon as you're hurt, you're done," he said. "Every other law-enforcement agency offers you another position if you're hurt in the line of duty. If I got hurt tomorrow, I would be done, and you just can't treat employees like that."