TSA PreCheck for Military Members and Wounded Warriors

In the military? Skip long airport lines with the TSA PreCheck program. TSA offers Free PSA PreCheck for eligible military members, including Active Duty, Guard, Reserves, eligible Wounded Warriors, and Service Academy Students. DoD and Coast Guard Civilians are also eligible if they opt-in to the program through the MilConnect website. Learn how to apply.
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Military TSA PreCheck

Traveling through airport security can be a hassle. Thankfully, military members are eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck for free. This allows them to bypass the normal security line and avoid the inconvenience of taking off your shoes, belt, and jacket. You can also leave your computer and your toiletries in your carry-on bag. This is a great program that will save you a ton of time and hassle when you travel by air!

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) PreCheck passenger screening program was designed to allow certain individuals to bypass the normal security lines and go through the PreCheck security lines.

And if you are in the military, you should be eligible to participate in this program, free of charge. You may also be eligible to participate for free if you are a Wounded Warrior or a DoD civilian employee. Let’s dive in and look at the TSA PreCheck passenger screening program, who it applies to, and how to use it.

What is TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck offers expedited security screening at more than 120 participating U.S. airport checkpoints. Travelers can get through screening stations faster because the lines are typically shorter and move more quickly because travelers are not required to remove their:

  • Belt,
  • Shoes,
  • Light outerwear/jacket,
  • 3-1-1 compliant bag (toiletries in a zip lock baggie),
  • or laptop from their carry-on.

Who is eligible for TSA PreCheck?

TSA PreCheck is available to some individuals that the TSA deems as low-risk travelers. TSA uses different systems to determine who they consider low-risk. This can include certain frequent flyers of participating airlines, members of the TSA PreCheck application program, or participants of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler program (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI). It is also open to military members, even when you are traveling for personal reasons.

Children under age 12, traveling with an eligible adult: Accompanying passengers 12 and younger are allowed through TSA PreCheck lanes when traveling with eligible passengers (parent or guardian).

Eligible Military Members / Wounded Warriors / DoD Civilians:

TSA offers expedited screening to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving on active duty, and serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces can participate by using their official Department of Defense (DoD) identification number when making flight reservations. Your 10-digit DoD ID number can be found on the back of your Combined Access Card (CAC) ID (Note: your DoD ID number is not your Social Security Number).

Eligible military travelers include:

This program is not free of charge for all veterans based on their military service, however, you may be eligible for the program through other means (listed below).

What about military retirees? I have heard different reports from veterans that they were able to get the TSA PreCheck as a retiree, while others were not able to do so. If you are a retiree, you should have a DoD ID number (this will be located in your MilConnect account, or on a CAC ID Card). Use the DoD ID number as your Known Traveler Number when purchasing airline tickets. I cannot guarantee it will work, but it is worth trying.

How to Use TSA PreCheck

CAC Card - DoD Number

To use TSA PreCheck as a military member, you will need to have a CAC ID Card. You will need to use the DoD ID number on the back of your CAC Card and enter it as the “Known Traveler Number” when making official travel or leisure airline reservations.

Once you make your reservations and print your boarding pass, you will see a TSA PreCheck Notification on your boarding pass. It should have logo that displays any of the following: “TSA Pre?™,” “TSA PRE” or “TSA PRECHK.” It will look something like the image below (image courtesy of TSA).

TSA PreCheck Boarding Passes

If your boarding pass has one of those images, then you can go straight to the TSA PreCheck line instead of waiting in the general line (unless TSA PreCheck isn’t available at that specific airport, in which case you go to the general line).

Add your DoD ID Number to Your Travel Profiles

You can save your DoD ID Number in your DTS account and with your frequent flyer programs for participating airlines. This will make it easier to ensure your number is automatically added as your Known Traveler ID. You should only have to do this once for your DTS account, and once for each frequent flyer program in which you participate. Here is a list of participating airlines.

All current military members should have a standard CAC ID Card, so they should be able to get their DoD ID number from that. If you are a retiree and don’t have a CAC Card, or if the number is not on your CAC, you may obtain it by logging on to milConnect.  You will find your ID number under the “My Profile” tab (again, I don’t know for certain this works for retirees). Here is more information from the Defense Travel Management Office.

What if You No Longer Have any Military Affiliation?

The TSA PreCheck program is open to:

  • U.S. citizens of frequent flyer programs who meet TSA-mandated criteria and who have been invited by a participating airline.
  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with a Known Traveler Number (KTN), sometimes referred to as a trusted traveler number.
  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are members of the TSA Pre?® application program.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.
  • Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard civilian employees.
  • Members of the following U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler programs:
    • All members of Global Entry.
    • U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS.
    • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are members of SENTRI.

You can also apply through the TSA PreCheck application program. This has an $85 non-refundable fee, which is used to cover the cost of the associated background checks.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Donna Green says

    Doug, do active duty military automatically get GLOBAL ENTRY status, as they do TSA PreCheck? I have not been able to get clarification anywhere on the internet. All military references are to TSA PreCheck.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Donna, I haven’t seen anything that automatically gives Global Entry status to military members. I believe they are required to apply for the program and pay the application fee.

  2. Doug says

    ‘Known traveler’ status is an agreement between the airline and TSA. If you’re a frequent flyer the airline you use can add this info and it will print on your boarding pass. You don’t need to pay TSA a fee. In my case, 100% disabled veteran my DoD card is my I.D. and the DoD number is my ‘known traveler’ number on my boarding pass. DEERS inputs this number into the TSA computer automatically and there’s no need to pay a fee or ‘apply’. Just remember you’re dealing with the government so if you ask 5 different gov. employees you will get 5 different procedures.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Nicholas, You should be able to, provided your CAC is not expired. The airport will only look at your CAC as a form of ID. They do not scan it or read the chip on your card. For TSA PreCheck, only the DoD ID number on the back is used.

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!

  3. Bill says

    Hi Ryan,

    Both me and my wife were able to use our military retiree D0D ID # for TSA pre-check on our flights last week. Keep in mind that the DoD ID # must not be your soc. #. I upgraded my retired ID card just before the trip and my wife received her ID card recently as well. TSA mentioned the same thing on the phone but said to try the DoD ID number and for us it worked. Call the airline prior to check-in or your agent when ordering and provide your DoD.

  4. Terry says

    I just got off the phone with TSA and they told me that retired veterans are not eligible for free TSA Pre-Check unless they purchase it and go through a background check.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Terry, Thank you for this update. Even though you won’t be able to use this as a retiree, I can say it is very convenient, and worth the $85 if you travel at least once or twice a year. The time saved is well worth the small cost ($17 a year – and divide that by the number of flights you take each year).

  5. Kayla says

    Extremely helpful! Appreciate it! I just signed up for TSA Pre-Check, and I told my boyfriend, coast guard, he should do the same… Well now I know he doesn’t have to. He’s been standing in long security lines this whole time.

  6. Alison says

    Can military members who follow this process for TSA pre-check bring their children with them in the pre-check line?

  7. Dallas Shaw says

    I do believe the United States Coast Guard is the 5th branch of the Armed Forces. So having them on a separate bullet like they are different doesn’t really fit.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Dallas, Thanks for your comment. Yes, the Coast Guard is a military organization, but it is also part of the Department of Homeland Security. As such, many government and non-government organizations list the Coast Guard separately – not necessarily to segregate them, but to ensure people are aware they Coast Guard is covered under the various programs. Thanks.

  8. Keith says

    Great specific article about the PreCheck program and our Military.

    Though we are not former or active, we have received TSA PreCheck EVERY time we have flown with our Global Entry membership.

    Perhaps another option, with more benefits, for non active military or those without a DOD # than just signing up for PreCheck alone if their DOD does not work. Though, would be nice if all military could participate free of charge. Thanks for the write up!

  9. Rebecca says

    I have entered the information from for Known Traveler ID into Delta Miles. I read something that it needs to be included into the DTS website, however we have no way of adding this as my husband is no longer in and does not hold a CAC as active duty. He is in the wounded warrior program. What else do we need to do?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Rebecca, I believe you may need to contact the TSA. Here is a quote from their site:

      Injured, wounded service members, veterans and wounded warriors may contact TSA Cares to request assistance with the security screening process. TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Call TSA Cares 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint at (855) 787-2227.

      TSA verifies the status of individuals identifying themselves as a wounded warrior, through the appropriate military branch. Following verification, the travel information is provided to the departing/arriving U.S. airports where wounded warriors may use TSA Pre?® expedited screening at available locations or experience other expedited screening procedures.

      Injured service members/veterans requesting assistance will have their travel information and type of assistance required provided to the departing/arriving U.S. airports to ensure they receive proper assistance at the security checkpoint.

      • D Hammer says

        Ryan, thank you for the above quote from TSA’s site, which I also found independently. This clearly mentions veterans in the first sentence. I am retired from the Army, with 100% service connected disability, although the Wounded Warrior group would not even look into offering me any help; but that is not the point.
        I have a Retired ID card now, not a CAC as I did while on active duty, and the ten digit DOD ID Number is clearly noted on the front side with my picture. Luckily, while filling out my online ticket info, I clicked on the “Known Traveler Number”, and it explained that it was a ten digit number, not your Social Security number, which let me to study my Retired ID.
        Like you, I am encouraged that this might work, although I have not traveled as yet. I just wanted to explain about the ten digit number on retired Veteran’s ID, though you have to use a magnifying glass to find it!
        Thank you for bringing this up. Veterans are the most loyal and patriotic Americans, forever, and are above reproach as a risk.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello D Hammer, Thank you for sharing this. I have to note that each airline can determine whether or not to give the TSA Pre Check to travelers. I have had great experiences with Southwest Airlines, and receive TSA Pre Check each time I travel. I recently flew with United Airlines and did not receive the TSA Precheck. So it can vary. In my opinion, this is a nice benefit to have when it comes through, but I’m not overly disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Just be sure to check your boarding pass for the Pre Check logo before arriving at that airport, and be sure to arrive a little earlier if you don’t have the Pre Check.

      • David Whitmore says

        Rebecca; I am retired military; but I don’t qualify for any of the Wounded Warrior stuff because I retired in 1998. I was advised by the VA, back then, that I was 100% disabled due to all the injuries I sustained during my enlistment; and so I wouldn’t get to collect my retirement check. The various Wounded Warrior programs didn’t exist then, and they have never backed dated any of the possible benefits one might qualify for.
        The last time I travelled by air, I went through the TSA’s shortened lines for disabled veterans. I was wheeled up to the check-in station in an airport provided wheelchair, and made to take off my jacket, belt, and shoes. They did a full-body pat-down, even making me stand with one person holding me up, supporting me under my arms, as a second person did the pat-down. I was then allowed to sit in the chair they wiped down for any explosive residue.
        When going through this process for the return flight, the TSA agents gave me a clear acrylic cane to use as they made me walk toward the booth where they wanted me to stand for the scanning process. BUT… They wouldn’t allow me to keep the cane while in there though, and insisted that I put my hands up over my head. Even though both I and my wife insisted that I was not really good at standing. Then they did the full body pat-down anyway; because they found a hair elastic that I had forgotten to get out of my pants pocket prior to the search.
        They also did not like having my wife talk when they asked me questions. Actually told her to be quiet.

        I’m going to have to fly again this summer, but I don’t anticipate any improvement in the TSA’s check-in procedures.

        Good luck.

  10. Nicole says

    Hi Ryan,

    If this is for personal travel, does the TSA pre check apply to the active military member, his spouse and children, or only the active military member?

    Thanks,
    Nicole

    • Ryan Guina says

      Nicole, The TSA PreScreen only covers the military member, and children under the age of 12. It does not apply to spouses, unless they are already covered through a frequent flyer progra, or they have applied through another method.

      • Mark says

        Ryan,

        While I cannot find this supported officially anywhere, in practice, as an active duty member, when I check in online for myself and my wife, both of our boarding passes print out with Pre-Check written on it, and we can both go through the line. This does not work if she travels alone, but it is worth a try for all traveling to have the AD member use his or her known travel number (KTN) to check in for the family.

        On a separate note, caution that some budget airlines, such as Frontier, are not Pre-Check participants and therefore you will not be allowed to participate in Pre-Check. I do not know if Global Entry is treated differently since they issue a card, but I suspect it will not work since GE still requires you to enter your GE number as the KTN in the airlines’ systems.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Hello Mark, Thanks for your comment. I find this to be hit or miss as well, even with the airlines that participate. I find that I have always been given TSA PreCheck with Southwest Airlines, but I haven’t had luck with United or Hawaiian Airlines. My wife was given PreCheck with me twice, and another time she wasn’t. So this is nice when it works, but there is no guarantee. I should also note that it is up to the ticket buyer to enter their Known Traveler Number each time they make a purchase. The airlines may or may not store that information, and it is required for the PreCheck.

        I don’t have any experience with Global Entry, so I can’t comment on that. But my guess is that you probably need to fly with an airline that supports TSA PreCheck in order to get that printed on your boarding pass.

        PreCheck is very convenient, and I enjoy it when we receive it. But I’m leaning toward just buying the PreCheck through TSA for my wife and I – that will give us better odds of receiving it every time, instead of sporadically. It’s $85 per person (good for 5 years), so each person would need to decide if it is worth it to them. I fly a few times per year, so the cost per use for me would be $17 per year, and about $5 per round trip ticket. That’s well worth it in my book.

  11. Mel M says

    Ryan,
    Thanks for the info. I entered my DoD number (incidentally, my retiree ID card’s DoD ID number is the same as what is on the back on my “old” Active Duty CAC) into Delta’s SkyMiles website, under Known Traveler Number…the website took it. I just have to wait until my flight next month to see if I get TSA Precheck on my boarding pass.
    The TSA link addressing TSA Precheck for military members is: http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/members-military

    Mel

  12. Glen says

    Hi Ryan,

    Sometimes it takes time for word to get around but I called TSA and I was told that they knew of no program for veterans to qualify for TSA PreCheck.
    Couple of questions:
    1. Is the DOD ID number on my retired military ID the same as Combined Access Card (CAC) ID #?
    2. When I make my reservations on a participating airline, departing from a participating airport – I need to give them this number. Then when I show up I must have a DD214 and my ID card… Is this correct?
    3. Is it true we do not have to purchase any “special” TSA card?
    4. Is there a point of contact at TSA that you could share so I can reference them to TSA when trying to make the system work? Is there something in print they can reference, so I do not get into a he said, she said conversation?

    Great story and potentially very useful,

    Thank You,

    Glen Smith

    • Ryan Guina says

      Glen, the only program that I am aware of for veterans is for the Wounded Warriors. There is a link in the article with information on how to apply for the PreCheck. I have heard mixed results from retirees. Some have reported it has worked for them, while others have said it didn’t. Yes, I believe the DoD ID number on the back of your ID card is the same the CAC ID number. This should be used as the Known Traveler Number when you make your airline reservations. You should have the ID with you when you travel, but I don’t know if you need a DD 214. I haven’t seen that information anywhere. There is no special TSA card that I am aware of. The Known Traveler Number is the number TSA uses to track people under the TSA PreCheck program. I do not have a point of contact with the TSA. All the information in the above article came directly from the TSA website (it is spread out among 4 or 5 pages, so I consolidated everything here to make it easier to digest).

      The best I can say is to use your DoD ID number as the Known Traveler Number when you make your next travel reservations and see if it works. Best of luck!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Joy, Thank you for contacting me. You will need to include your DoD ID number in the Known Traveler Number when you buy an airline ticket, or you can enter it with your rewards miles programs. DoD ID Numbers are on the back of CAC ID Cards. If you don’t have a CAC Card, or if the number is not on your CAC, you may obtain it by logging on to milConnect.

      • Cooter says

        We have only made one round trip since I retired in 1992. In 2016, we flew from Alabama to California. At that time, I did not know about the Pre check for retirees. I did not enter a known traveler number when making reservations with American Airlines. There is no Pre check at the small airport here, but when leaving Ontario International Airport, there was the Pre check printed on the boarding passes. I can only assume that by entering all my information (Name, SSN) it automatically saw that I had a DoD ID Number.

      • stacey says

        So silly. You do not have a CAC Id card when you retire. That would pertain to current service members only. Do retiree cards have DOD ID numbers? That’s the picture you should show on the side of the article.

      • Joe says

        Yes, Retiree ID cards do have a DOD ID number on them. If you retired before the DOD ID number system came into effect, then you can go to a DEERS office to get a new ID or log onto MILCONNECT to obtain your number.

  13. Tim Logan says

    Hi Ryan, thanks for the article, however I think you need to clarify your heading to read instead of “Veterans” to “Wounded Warrior”, since there is no program with TSA to allow Veterans to qualify automatically for TSA Pre. Rather the majority of Veterans will have to either be part of one of the parties already qualified automatically or pay to be part of TSA Pre. Unfortunately trying to get through TSA screening can be challenging and at times embarrassing especially if you have a disability. I have already brought this up to my member of Congress and I encourage every Veteran (disabled or not) to do the same. Veterans should be able to qualify for TSA Pre because they are Veterans.

    • stacey cokeley says

      I completely disagree. Veterans should not qualify for TSA precheck based on their veteran status. This makes no sense. Presumably, current serving military members are granted TSA precheck not just because they are currently serving and it is a benefit….it’s because they have some type of a security background already completed or in the process. Once you are retired or leave the military that is not the case. If anything, veterans should be allowed TSA pre-check until their current clearance is expired. Another option would be to waive the fee for retirees for TSA precheck that civilians can apply for and receive. No one should be grandfathered in to a program that requires a security clearance.

      • Tina says

        If you waive the fee for retirees, it should be waived for all veterans who have served honorably. It should be a benefit we are afforded. Not saying we should get out of the background check, but if you’re in a job – esp a federal one – that requires background checks, then that should be waived as well. VA employees and other government employees that must frequently undergo background checks should also be able to use the benefit.

      • Junior Rivera says

        It is incorrect that ALL active duty army have some type of security background completed or in the process, the majority of soldiers do not. A background check for a clearance is only provided to soldiers who either applied for it and passed or are required to have one and are appoved due to their MOS.

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