When you go to do your first FAA Medical exam you will start with the MedXPress questionnaire. You may be surprised at how much of your medical history they are wanting to know. They want to know if you have EVER been diagnosed with … Ever is a long time for some of us!
Failure to disclose at your medical exam can be for a variety of reasons. If you had put off filling out your MedXPress and are now in a time crunch, that perceived urgency can wreak havoc on your memory. Especially for things you don’t normally think about. If you aren’t prepared for these questions in advance you may not remember everything at the moment.
Some pilots are so afraid of the medical process that they intentionally hide things from the FAA for fear of losing their medical. Many of our professional pilot friends talk about how some pilots will split between their “real medical” and their “FAA medical.” “You talk to your personal doctor about everything and the FAA about nothing.” Not something we recommend.
Yet another reason is just not understanding what the FAA is looking for. Many people with Social Security or VA disabilities function with “normal” life as they have either recovered from the issue or it isn’t significant enough to continue to affect them on a daily basis. They misinterpret the MedXPress question thinking it is asking if they are currently physically disabled when it wants to know if you have ever been assigned a disability.
Intentionally done or not, any one of these scenarios can place your career in jeopardy and the result is the same thing: falsely obtaining your FAA medical certification. The federal government does not look kindly on this. It really is a serious thing. ATP pilots with first-class medical certification are responsible for carrying hundreds of people aboard some of the largest pieces of machinery in the world at over 500 knots. Whether from accidental incapacitation due to a medical issue or from an intentional crash due to a psychiatric condition, there is a lot at stake. The safety of our system is multifactorial, but a large part is the medical certification of the pilots.
This may all sound like doom and gloom, but we have good news: unlike the legal department, who will go after you if they discover this on their own, the medical department of the FAA is not out to crucify people. The medical department is first and foremost concerned with ensuring your current medical suitability to fly. And they can only do that if you are truthful with the AME.
What, then, do you do if you find yourself in this situation? The first thing you need to do is to come clean with the FAA on your own. If it is brought to the FAA’s attention in another way, then legal gets involved and your career is potentially over. There is a proper way to do this and we can help.
Sometimes it is as simple as truthfully reporting on the next exam. Explain to the AME what happened and that you would like to include a personal statement to the FAA. This statement should address why you did not previously disclose the known issue and how you can assure them it will not happen again. If the failure to disclose was for something like typical arthritis this is probably all you need to do.
But if your medical issues are significant enough to warrant your exam being deferred, then you want to go into that exam prepared just as if it were a new medical condition or this was your very first FAA exam. This is when you will want to engage with an AME experienced with complicated issues or someone like us.
We at Wingman Med always believe that honesty is the best policy. That is because with our experience and qualifications we know that if you think you are safe to fly, you probably are. The FAA will likely agree with you. They just need to be reassured.