Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is eligible to receive tickets?
A: There are two categories of eligible recipients:
- Wounded, injured, and ill service members on ordinary leave may be given a round-trip airline ticket for a trip from the medical center to their home or to attend an authorized event, if they are not eligible for government funded airfare.
- Wounded, injured and ill service members may be given a round-trip airline ticket to enable their family or close friends to visit them while they are undergoing treatment at an authorized medical center.
The Hero Miles program was authorized by Congress in 2005 in the Department of Defense Authorization Act, which was amended in 2011. The program is specific in that wounded, injured, and ill service members and their families are eligible. One exception to this is the provision of airline tickets to family members attending the funeral or dignified transfer of remains of a service member killed in overseas post 9/11 contingency operations, when coordinated with the casualty assistance officer.
- “Service member” is defined as: An active duty member of the military, to include National Guard and reservists receiving treatment at an authorized medical treatment facility.
Q: How do I request a Hero Miles ticket?
A: The service member will submit a request through a case worker, social work staff, or service casualty offices. At some medical centers, there are established offices to assist families, such as the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, the Warrior Transition Unit, the Warrior Family Assistance Center at SAMMC, or Marine Liaisons at Naval medical centers.
Q: Can a child (unaccompanied minor) travel on a Hero Miles ticket?
A: Yes, however the service member is responsible for any unaccompanied minor fees.
Q: Does Hero Miles pay baggage fees?
A: No, the service member is responsible for all fees; including but not limited to: unauthorized change fees, seat upgrades, and baggage fees.
Q: Do I get a paper ticket? What if I have to make a change to my itinerary once I receive my ticket?
A: All tickets are electronic. The passenger will need the record locator and confirmation number along with a government issued photo ID at the airport. Fisher House Foundation does not permit any changes that would result in the Foundation paying a change fee unless the reason is medical necessity, and beyond the ability of the passenger to anticipate. Seats set aside for award tickets are carefully controlled by the airlines and it is not always possible to make last minute changes.
Q: I have a three day pass; can I use a Hero Miles ticket to go home?
A: You must be on ordinary leave to be eligible for a Hero Miles ticket.
Q: How many Hero Miles tickets can a family have and how often?
A: In general, Fisher House Foundation does not place limits on the number or frequency of the travel as long as it is reasonable and in the best interest of the wounded, injured or ill service member. While we do what we can, please be mindful that we have many eligible service members, and our resources are not unlimited.
Q: Some service members will be hospitalized for extensive periods. When does the program terminate?
A: As a general rule, when the service member enters the Medical Evaluation Board process, or when permanently assigned to a duty location.
Q: Can we use Hero Miles to attend an award ceremony for our loved one? Can the patient fly home on a Hero Miles Ticket for attend a ceremony in his or her honor?
A: Hero Miles was established to reunite families. It is not a program for leisure travel or to reward a service member who has been wounded or injured.
Q: I received a Red Cross notification. Am I eligible for a Hero Miles ticket?
A: Unfortunately, no. Hero Miles can only provide assistance relating to the medical treatment of a service member.
Q: Who are your airline partners?
A: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines.
Q: How do airline passengers donate their miles?
A: Frequent flyer miles are donated through each participating airline to accounts established for use by Fisher House Foundation. The current list of participating airlines and those accepting donations of miles is located at http://fisherhouse.org/programs/hero-miles/. Each airline differs in the minimum number of miles it will accept, and how the donation is made.
Q: Can I donate my miles to a specific individual or specify they only be used for travel by service members of a specific service branch or site?
A: Unfortunately, no. The miles are anonymously donated and deposited into an account set up by the airline, and it would be impossible to match a specific donation to a specific passenger.
Q: Can I get a receipt from the airline or Fisher House, and can I deduct the donation when I prepare my tax return?
A: Fisher House Foundation cannot provide a receipt or acknowledgement as the airlines do not share donor information. The airlines transfer of miles from an individual account to Fisher House Foundation is reflected in the regularly scheduled frequent flyer statement. The IRS does not permit tax payers to deduct the donation of their frequent flyer miles as a charitable donation.
Q: How do I know that the airline actually transferred my miles to Fisher House?
A: Fisher House Foundation cannot verify individual donations. You would have to contact an individual airline for verification or wait for your next frequent flyer mileage statement.
Q: What is Operation Hero Miles? Is it different from the Hero miles program?
A: Operation Hero Miles was started by Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (DMD) in late 2003 to provide free airline tickets to service members returning to the U. S. from Iraq or Afghanistan on R & R (rest and recuperation) leave. Initially, Fisher House Foundation partnered with Congressman Ruppersberger so a portion of the tickets donated by airline frequent flyers could be used for hospitalized service members and their families. In early 2004, Congress and the military authorized all R&R travel at government expense, so there was no longer a need for the donation of frequent flyer miles for R&R. travel. The original Hero Miles program evolved into a program to support wounded, injured, and ill Service members and their families.
Q: How did Fisher House become involved in the Hero Miles program?
A: Fisher House is the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation; an IRS approved 501(c) (3) public charity. Fisher House Foundation builds and donates houses to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs, fully furnished homes on the grounds of major medical centers for the families of patients receiving care at the medical centers where the homes are located. The idea to assist the families of wounded, injured and ill Service members came from the spouses of two senior Defense Department officials: Mrs. Pride Winkenwerder, spouse of Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) Dr. William Winkenwerder, and Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, wife of then Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers. Together, they approached Fisher House Foundation, asking if the private foundation could establish partnerships with the major airlines to assist the families of wounded, injured and ill Service members.
Q: Who can I contact if I have a question not covered above?
A: You can call Fisher House Foundation toll-free at 888.294.8560.