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The FAA has Launched a New “SPECIAL PROJECT”

Posted 244 days ago ago by Admin

In recent months, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has joined forces with the Veterans Administration (VA) in a collaborative effort to identify pilots who, whether intentionally or unintentionally, have failed to accurately disclose receiving disability benefits.

In the early part of 2022, the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine launched a ‘Special Project’ investigation aimed at identifying military veteran pilots who may not have properly disclosed their disability benefits to the FAA on their pilot medical applications. As aviation lawyer Anthony Ison explains in his AOPA article "Airman Receiving VA Disability Benefits: A Time Sensitive Warning"  it appears that the VA has granted the FAA access to their Veterans Disability Compensation records. Armed with this documentation, the FAA is, subsequently, cross referencing their own files in order to identify any pilot who may not have properly disclosed all of their VA Disability benefits.

Unfortunately, this “special project” investigation has uncovered a significant number of airmen who have (likely unintentionally) failed to properly disclose their VA Disability Benefits.  In response to this discovery, the Office of Aerospace Medicine has begun sending out Letters of Investigation (LOI) and Letters of Correction (LOC) to airman who may fall into this category.   These letters vary based on how the FAA has chosen to respond to their discovery of your lack of disability disclosure, and may offer you the chance to correct the missing information.  Most recently, some airmen have received letters offering them the opportunity to “reconcile’ their FAA Form 8500-8 Application for Airman Medical Certificate” to properly reflect the VA Benefits they are receiving. This is good news, as it seems this may be a type of amnesty program in response to the many veteran pilots who have been identified.

What’s Required on Your FAA Medical Application Form

Most military veteran pilots may be surprised to learn that they are required by federal law to disclose any and all medical disability compensation to the FAA.   More specifically, the FAA considers VA disability benefits to be the type of disability compensation that must be disclosed on  your application for an FAA medical certificate.  When a pilot applies for an  aviation medical certificate on the MedXPress website,  they are required, by federal law, to answer a long list of questions regarding their entire medical history.

This includes disclosing whether you are receiving, or have ever received, any type of disability compensation from the VA, Social Security, or a private entity. This questionnaire is formally known as FAA Form 8500-8, and question number 18 for Medical History Part 1 states:

“Have you ever in your life been diagnosed with, had or do you presently have any of the following?”

When you scroll down to question ‘Y’ under “Part 2” it states “Medical disability benefits”.  

It is crucial to understand that the FAA requires you to answer “Yes” to this question if you are currently receiving, or have ever received, disability benefits.  You are also required to explain all of the corresponding factors associated with the disabilities for which you are receiving compensation.

As far as the FAA is concerned, if you failed to select “Yes” for question 18y, on form 8500-8 and you are receiving, or have ever received, Disability Benefits, then they hold that you knowingly made a false statement on a federal document. Regardless of whether this was an intentional or an unintentional falsification, it could realistically lead to having your medical certificate and all of your pilot certificates, privileges, and type ratings revoked.

Begin the Correction Process Wisely

If you are a military veteran pilot who has failed to disclose your VA Disability Benefits on MedXPress, or to your AME, then it is time to wisely take corrective action now.  The most valuable step you can take while beginning this correction process is to contact an aviation law firm, particularly a law firm that specializes in aviation medical certification, and is familiar with the FAA's current investigation. An aviation law firm will be intimately familiar with which documents to gather from your VA medical file and from your AME prior to contacting the FAA. Once all of the proper documentation is in order, they can present a very strong case on your behalf to the FAA. Finally, it is absolutely in your best interests to reach out to the FAA before they reach out to you. Taking the initiative in this case helps to demonstrate your genuine goal of providing accurate medical information to the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine.

About the author:  Heidi McBride was a helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Coast Guard and is now a multi-engine IFR helicopter pilot working in the oil and gas industry.

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