First I want to start by saying THANK YOU for serving and protecting us!
On the FAA form 8500-8 (application for medical certificate) item 18 is your medical history…. THIS IS A LIFETIME QUESTION. Item 18y is asking about Medical Disability Benefits . This question was put on the application over 20 years ago in a joint effort with the social security administration. The FAA discovered that they had a significant
number of pilots that were claiming 100% social security and yet continued to mark no on all of the medical questions. Obviously, that would be a discrepancy.
After a few years of finding these cases they discovered the same was true with VA benefits.
One of the most common reasons why Airman do not report VA disability that I hear is “we don’t have to disclose this to anyone, it is what the VA tells us”. As many are finding out the hard way that is not the case. The FAA can run your social security number against the VA database and see who is receiving payments. When they find you, and they will.. it is just a matter of time. The FAA does not send you a letter asking for an explanation, they send the FBI and it goes from a simple misunderstanding to a very expensive legal battle.
The FAA does not view “errors on reporting, omissions on the form” as an oversight… it is viewed as willful negligence. You know or should know that it needs to be disclosed. In many cases the VA disability is not an issue, it becomes an issue when you have a rating for PTSD, Anxiety or depression. This does not mean that you can never fly if you have these ratings but the FAA will want a work up to make sure that you are safe to continue flying.
If you have a rating for PTSD, Anxiety or depression and you are worried that you will not be able to continue flying if it is disclosed, DO NOT GET IT REMOVED from your disability rating. You will lose the money that you have earned. The FAA will continue to treat your case as if you had the same rating even if it is reduced to zero. They do this because it becomes an issue of medical history.
So what do you do you have VA disability and you have always marked no?
Get a new physical ASAP and correctly mark the items. I can help you with this; we will sit down and make sure every item you have “claimed” is reflected in your application. I strongly suggest you also right a letter to the FAA to include with your application explaining that you were not aware VA benefits needed to be disclosed. If you are already on the radar with the FAA/FBI this will not change that, but it will help your case.
I don’t have any current investigations that I know of, when these have happened in the past the FBI calls and tells us we will be meeting and they do not give any information about who/what they want to discuss… that is more than a bit stressful as you can imagine. But in our experience they don’t always have the most current information so a new exam with the correct answers is very helpful.
We have tried many times to get the FAA to clarify the question but they will not. Another thing to remember, the FAA can and will at times ask for your rating determination packet. I do often times get these from airman and just keep them in their file in case a request is made I can send it in and save you the hassle.
Always remember, I am here to be your advocate. I want to keep you flying, keep you safe and keep you off of the FAA radar as much as possible! Please ask any questions you may have!
Let’s talk about alcohol and the FAA. Some would say that trying to understand or keep up with the FAA will cause you to drink… but don’t fall for it!
A few of the most common misconceptions that we hear…
1) my record was expunged
2) my record is sealed, no one can see it
3) all charges were dropped so it didn’t happen
and this is just the top 3!
The way the rules read is that ANY alcohol or drug related offense needs to be reported. EVEN IF IT WAS DROPPED, SEALED OR EXPUNGED. The FAA looks at the initial interaction, not the outcome.
Alcohol/substance abuse incidents are NOW CUMULATIVE… so what happens when you were in high school or college and get a public intoxication…30 years later you get a DUI that is .11. You now have 2 alcohol events and you are in the HIMS program for life. The FAA has advised us that they can now check international records for
alcohol/substance interactions with law enforcement.
Another thing to remember …. If you are ever pulled over for anything and the police ask for a breathalyzer and you refuse…. The FAA will automatically put you into the HIMS program and it will be ASSUMED THE BAC would have been .2. This is a very expensive, extremely strenuous program that will cost in excess of $15k and a minimum of 2 years to get your medical back.
If you are going to drink, stop and think! Make plans ahead of time for other options such as Uber or lyft.
If you have questions about a personal situation or you just want to clarify a friend’s situation please DM/PM so we can help you!
Next topic… VA disability!
Stay safe out there, HAPPY FLYING!