The FAA responded to an AOPA request by offering a path to reconciliation for military veterans who may not have reported receiving Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits on their pilot medical certificate application.
More than half of the cases have been closed, and other veterans are being given a chance to reconcile their pilot medical records and continue flying—a process AOPA asked the administrator to implement in March.
Baker called on the agency to follow previously established procedures, such as the process that provided amnesty for pilots who did not disclose DWI/DUI convictions under a 1990 rule, followed in 2010 by medical certificate amnesty offered for those who had not disclosed use of antidepressant medication and related treatment. Baker’s appeal to the acting administrator followed months of AOPA staff working with affected members as the FAA investigation launched in 2022 ramped up. Baker noted the large number of affected pilots identified as having received some type of disability benefit they did not report to the FAA is evidence of a systemic problem.
Acting Deputy FAA Administrator Katie Thomson responded that the agency's investigation was triggered by a referral from the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office, and that the FAA “recognizes the sacrifices our veterans made in the service of our country, and we thank them for their service.” (Similar language is used on many letters sent to individual pilots to date.)
FAA medical staff determined that 60 of the nearly 4,800 pilots flagged for investigation by the inspector general may have disqualifying conditions, and those individuals were told “that they must cease flying unless and until they obtain a new medical certificate or an Authorization for Special Issuance,” Thomson wrote.
The agency has closed about 2,550 other cases from the initial group after determining that the cases had been resolved or that the pilots had either already reported the conditions in question correctly, or were included in the initial group referred for investigation due to administrative error.
About 1,250 pilots of the initial group no longer hold valid medical certificates, though some may be flying under BasicMed, Thomson wrote. “The FAA continues to review these cases.”
It is the understanding of AOPA Pilot Protection Services that only pilots who receive a letter from the FAA offering the reconciliation process are eligible to participate.
The resolution timeline varies somewhat by medical certificate class. First class medical certificate holders who are notified by the FAA must submit a new application and schedule an appointment with an aviation medical examiner no later than July 31, while second class and third class certificate holders are also directed to reapply and schedule an AME visit before their current certificate expires, or January 31—whichever is sooner.
The agency noted that medical certification requirements also vary, and included in the recent blog post a link to the online medical certificate application, along with other information.
“In recognition of our veterans’ service, as well as their shared interest in aviation safety, the Office of Aerospace Medicine and the FAA Chief Counsel’s office hope to confine legal enforcement action to only the most egregious cases meeting certain criteria,” Thomson wrote, without elaborating on what those criteria are. “Additionally, airmen who are not medically qualified may be subject to legal enforcement action due to their lack of qualifications to hold a medical certificate.”
AOPA Pilot Protection Services attorneys and medical certification experts have worked to inform and advise affected members, an effort that ramped up quickly as the FAA began flagging medical certificate applications with no reported disability that matched names listed in the VA database as receiving disability benefits. Much of the problem stems from the medical certificate application form itself, and misconceptions about the need to report even those disabilities without obvious effect on fitness to fly, such as tinnitus or carpal tunnel syndrome.
AOPA Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Director Gary Crump wrote a detailed briefing in March about the pitfalls to avoid when applying for a medical certificate, and what to expect when reporting various kinds of medical conditions to the FAA.