President’s Corner 2nd Issue 2022
Disability Does Not Mean an End to Flying
Many pilots contact our office with fears that reporting a disability award that they are currently receiving or have received in the past will jeopardize their continued medical certification. In the majority of situations, AME’s can issue medical certificates of all classes for pilots who have/are receiving disability benefits once the condition is stable and fully medically treated with appropriate documentation.
The Question and Why? 18Y
Question 18 on the MedXPress Application for Airman Medical Certificate asks, “Have you ever in your life been diagnosed with, had, or do you presently have any of the following?” Question 18Y lists “Medical Disability Benefits.” Question 18X asks about “Other illness, disability or surgery,” question 18R asks about “Military medical discharge,” and 18S asks about “Medical rejection by military service.” The FAA’s reason for asking for this information is to determine if an airman CURRENTLY has a medical condition that would be unsafe to fly or control air traffic. If not, then the medical certificate can be issued.
See the one-minute video AME Minute – Aeromedical Implications of Disability Benefits Reported by pilots for an explanation of the rationale by Dr. Warren Silberman of the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine. AME’s must document airman disabilities to submit the application. Thus, it is in the best interest of the pilot to bring in any medical records and disability awards associated with the condition to their AME at the time of examination.
The What and How?
Not only should an airman report “YES” to question 18Y if disability benefits have been received for a medical condition, but also respond “YES” to the question regarding the relevant medical condition in other sections of question 18. Bring appropriate documentation, such as the VA Disability Award Letter and any medical records associated with the evaluation and treatment for that condition. The letter can be obtained at www.va.gov/records/download-va-letters/ if a replacement is needed. If it has been some time since last evaluated or treated, it is prudent to have a recent evaluation to give to your AME regarding that condition. The evaluation can be done by your family physician or a specialist in that condition. It should address the history of your disability, the duration, the type of treatment, any functional limitations, current treatment if required and follow-up care if ongoing.
Many conditions are simple to report on and can be checked by your AME. Examples include disability for hearing loss, orthopedic surgery, or a hysterectomy. Others have specific FAA protocols for reporting such as obstructive sleep apnea. Some conditions may require detailed past and current records such as heart disease or psychological conditions such as PTSD along with a “current detailed clinical progress note” from the treating physician. Several psychological conditions have protocols for the AME to complete as well. The Guide to Aviation Medical Examiners states, “The applicant must report any disability benefits received, regardless of source or amount. If the applicant checks ‘yes’ on this item, the FAA may verify with other Federal Agencies (i.e. Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Affairs) whether the applicant is receiving a disability benefit that may present a conflict in issuing an FAA medical certificate. The Examiner must document the specifics and nature of the disability in findings in Item 60.”
Caution Warranted – Be Honest!
We always encourage pilots and ATC’s to be completely honest in reporting conditions on the MedXPress application. Remember that your electronic signature on the application grants the FAA authorization to search government-maintained databases such as the VA and the Social Security Administration databases for disability awards. Falsifying an application can be grounds for administrative actions against both pilot and medical certificates as well as civil and criminal penalties. The Department of Justice has pursued actions against pilots falsifying medical applications. The FAA also searches the National Drivers Records database for drug and alcohol-related motor vehicle actions.
Help is Ready.
Our AMAS physicians can advise pilots and controllers about documentation required and possible evaluations needed when reporting disability conditions. A trusted AME can also assist. In the vast majority of cases, disability does not present a barrier to continued medical certification if the condition is resolved or if stable and treated in a manner compatible with FAA certification.
Fly Safely, Stay Healthy,