FAA Investigation on the health of 4800 Army Veteran Pilots (Including 600 Airline pilots)

FAA Medical history form. (Washington Post)

An exclusive reportage from the Washington Post reveals that about 5000 pilots (including 600 airline pilots) are under investigation from the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) as they did hide the fact that they were receiving benefits related to mental health issues and other severe medical conditions that might render them unfit to operate aircraft, according to documents and interviews.

FAA Inquiry, the details

FAA spokesman Matthew Lehner said in a statement to the WP that about 60 pilots were already grounded, while about 2400 cases were closed and about 2400 are still under investigation. A lot of veterans downplay their disorders with the FAA so they can continue flying. At the same time, as reported by The Post, it is common practice for them to exaggerate these disorders with the Veterans Affairs (VA) office to maximize their benefits. The agency also expects that approximately 6 million veterans will receive $132 billion in reimbursements this year, compared to 3.3 million veterans in 2011.

How and when the investigation started

According to The Washington Post’s investigative reporters Lisa Rein and Craig Whitlock, the investigation began in 2019 when the VA inspector general’s office, concerned that some pilots were concealing mental health issues or wrongly receiving disability benefits, compared the agency’s disability benefit data with a database shared by the FAA for veterans authorized to serve as civilian pilots.

Which conditions can disqualify you from getting a first medical class

The medical conditions that could potentially disqualify a pilot from flying are as follows:

•          Angina

•          Bipolar disease

•          Cardiac valve replacement

•          Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant

•          Diabetes

•          Disturbance of consciousness without a satisfactory explanation of the cause

•          Epilepsy

•          Heart replacement

•          Myocardial infarction

•          Permanent cardiac pacemaker

•          Personality disorder severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself through overt acts

•          Psychosis

•          Substance abuse

•          Substance dependence

•          Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without a satisfactory explanation of the cause.

It’s important to note that these conditions are not necessarily automatic disqualifications. The FAA has the authority to grant waivers with restrictions when a medical condition is effectively managed. Pilots are required to accurately report any medical issues, undergo regular physical exams, and be subject to monitoring to maintain their licenses.

Regarding mental health conditions, it’s not easy for the aviation authorities to recognize them. Pilots are required to undergo routine health examinations conducted by government-contracted healthcare professionals. However, these examinations are frequently brief, and the FAA (as well as other agencies in Europe) depends on pilots to voluntarily disclose conditions that may be challenging to identify through standard tests, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, as noted by physicians responsible for conducting these examinations.

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