UNITED STATES- According to a report from The Washington Post, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has undertaken an investigation concerning nearly 5,000 pilots suspected of manipulating their medical records.
The investigation revealed that around 4,800 pilots, all of whom are military veterans, are allegedly involved in concealing their receipt of benefits for mental health disorders and other serious conditions, which could potentially render them unfit for flight.
US Pilots Medical Records
Legal requirements stipulate that pilots must divulge information about such medical benefits.
The report from The Post further outlines that both medical professionals and former FAA officials have indicated that numerous veterans downplay their ailments when communicating with the agency to ensure their flying privileges remain intact.
However, they tend to amplify these same conditions when dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs to secure higher disability payments.
The VA inspector general’s office is also engaged in an inquiry concerning many of the 4,800 pilots, aiming to ascertain whether any of them should be referred to the Justice Department for potential charges related to manipulating the benefits system.
In addition, officials have noted that a portion of these pilots refrained from disclosing their VA disability benefits under the guidance of physicians contracted by the FAA.
Aviation Medical Examiner Statement
Jerome Limoge, an aviation medical examiner based in Colorado Springs, commented on the situation, stating,
“There are individuals who, in my opinion, are attempting to navigate both sides of the equation. They’re being prompted by the VA to claim every possible benefit. Some of these actions can be likened to a form of misrepresentation.”
Around 600 of the pilots under scrutiny possess licenses to operate flights for passenger airlines, as a senior U.S. official reported.
The remaining pilots primarily hold commercial licenses, enabling them to work for hire across various sectors, such as cargo companies, corporate clients, and tour operators.
The investigative report disclosed that the disparities were uncovered by VA investigators over two years ago through a cross-verification process involving federal databases.
Matthew Lehner, the spokesperson for the FAA, informed The Post that the agency has initiated investigations into pilots suspected of potentially providing incorrect or falsified information as part of their medical applications.
Lehner further indicated that nearly half of these cases have been concluded, and around 60 pilots have been urgently instructed to cease flying while their records undergo scrutiny. This action was taken due to the perceived immediate threat these suspended pilots posed to aviation safety.
The report from The Post reveals that in several instances where cases were closed, pilots were directed to rectify their records and undergo fresh medical evaluations. Certain individuals were temporarily grounded pending the review of examination results.
Despite pilots undergoing regular health assessments contracted by the government, the FAA heavily relies on pilots to voluntarily disclose conditions that might otherwise be challenging to detect.
As reported by The Post, approximately one-third of the United States’ 110,000 commercial pilots acquired their flying experience through military training.
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