Deferred Medical - Timeline

Discussion in 'Medical Topics' started by VeteranStudentPilot, Dec 5, 2020.

  1. First, the basics:

    I have a 40% Service-Connected rating with the VA for PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Tinnitus, Insomnia, and a Chronic Lower Thoracic Strain. I have historically taken a myriad of medications (the VA hands meds out like candy on Halloween), including multiple SSRIs (one-at-a-time) and Ambien. I took Ambien on/off as needed from 2010 to 2013 and antidepressants/anxiolytics until 2017. I continued with CBT off-meds for about a year and then transitioned from outpatient mental health to a Psychologist with my primary care team instead, primarily focused on mindfulness. I discontinued seeing her at all in late 2019.

    My timeline:
    • 3/6/2020 - Decided I wanted to learn to fly. Began researching and realized I would have problems with the medical. Found a local HIMS AME to work with, figuring it would be best to start with a HIMS AME right from the beginning. The pandemic was starting to take hold and I decided to wait until the pandemic was over before proceeding.
    • 9/26/2020 - Got sick of waiting for a pandemic that would likely not be ending anytime soon. Emailed back and forth with my AME and set up an appointment to go get my deferral.
    • 10/14/2020 - Went for my first flight lesson after acknowledging with the flight school that I understood the cost risk associated with training without first having obtained my medical.
    • 10/17/2020 - Third Class Medical Exam. Annoyed by the "tell me the direction the 'C' is pointing" test, but otherwise unremarkable. Came prepared with all my medical records, but the AME didn't want to see any of them. Was told to just hang onto them for when the FAA asked for them.
    • 10/28/2020 - Received letter from the FAA regional office saying they could not determine my eligibility for a medical certificate. They asked for mental health treatment records, a status letter from my Psychologist, and a personal statement of the symptoms, treatment, and decision to discontinue treatment.
    • 10/29/2020 - Mailed requested documents back to the regional office. I didn't have a personal statement written but had already gathered the rest in anticipation of the things they would ask for. The personal statement was difficult as I wanted to balance answering their questions with factual information and not volunteering anything they didn't ask so as to avoid multiple rounds of waiting for correspondence. I spent around 3 hours perfecting my personal statement.
    • 12/5/2020 - Received my third-class medical certificate in the mail.
    So, yes, you can get a medical certificate with these things--and if you prepare your records in advance, respond quickly, and make sure to focus on exactly what the FAA wants from you, it doesn't even take that long.
     
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  2. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well done. Military guys are among my favorites because when they understand there is a SQUARE to fill, they try to accurately fill the square. I don't get any of the time and months and energy consuming, "why do I have to send that....will this other do...?"

    The reason you have to fill the square, and accurately, it because the agency doesn't have to do a thing and won't until the square is filled.

    If the candidate gets bad enough I simply say, "call me after the denial" and when we re-engage after the denial, I first ask, "are you ready to comply?"
     
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  3. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    bbchien,

    Sir, very well put! And thank you very much for the ongoing support and help for all of us.

    Veteran Student Pilot: AWESOME JOB brother!!! Your process went very fast and may be because of the 3rd Class MED, but none the less, great job!!

    Me on the other hand.....My journey is still on going, in part I guess because I didnt pursue the medical fast enough?? However, when I did pursue it, I didnt realize how long it would take...my generalized timeline is listed below for a the possible SI:

    July 2018: Got a deferment for PTSD and Sleep Apnea. Also, I started to do the research on what needed to be done on my end, I.E HIMS AME/ overall cost for the required test. Was a huge eye opener of what it was going to cost. This was going to take some thought, because I am a retired OH58 A/C/D and AH64D Aviator with around 2500 hrs in Helicopters. So, I wanted to possibly get back into flying someday after retirement, with really no rush. I wanted to be of help to my fellow citizens and fly EMS. Again, thank goodness, I wanted to do everything BY THE BOOK.

    MAR/APRIL 2019: When I finally got some extra cash, and made the decision to go forward, I went ahead and started the process with my HIMS AME and all that goes with it to get the SI.

    JUN-SEPT 2019: Completed the required testing and was told that it would all be processed and sent to my HIMS AME, who then sends it to the FAA.

    APRIL 2020: Got a letter from the FAA stating that I need a current checkup from my HIMS AME to continue with the process. I promptly got in my car and drove the 6 hr round trip to see him and to explain why I am here in his office. He then does the exam and sends his report that vey day to the FAA which was 14 APR 20. I called to follow up the next day with the FAA... " Yes...we received your report and will be sending you a letter in the mail..."

    DECEMBER 2020:
    Still waiting.......

    Now, all of this maybe due to COVID, but when I read the above posted from the Veteran Student Pilot, I now have some concerns on why mine is taking so long...

    Any advice is always welcome!
     
  4. jstone

    jstone Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Call the faa and ask them what’s going on. If they don’t give you a good enough answer then immediately call your HIMS AME. If the AME can’t give you a good answer or doesn’t seem to care find a new one.
     
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  5. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks brother!! WILCO

    I did call the FAA and was like...."Uhhhhh its been over 7 months guys...is this normal?"...FAA: " Sir..it is under review and you will get a letter.."

    My HIMS AME was surprised because he sent a very strong recommendation after the results of the testing required back in SEPT of 2019 and when I went to see him this past April, he was like WTF???
     
  6. jstone

    jstone Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I have no idea how they do things over there. I know airline pilots that were doing coke, alcoholics or were addicted to meth and the faa gave them there medical 2-4 months after their records were sent in. I’ve been waiting over a year and theyve told me nothing. They have free reign to do whatever they want and they don’t have to answer to anyone so they treat airmen like complete crap.
     
  7. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    yep....we are in the same boat brother...again, in my case, I am very fortunate that I am retired and have other forms of income and don't really need this to put food on the table. PLUS...I told the Truth, the WHOLE TRUTH and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH on my MED EXPRESS..
    by this process that we are going through, it became VERY CLEAR as to why people lie to get their medical certs....Oh well....
     
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  8. WDD

    WDD Cleared for Takeoff

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    Congrats! May I ask is this a SI, or a run of the mill 3rd class?
     
  9. Hi all. OP here.

    During my research to figure out how to streamline this, I saw several recommendations to submit your own paperwork. I've seen more than a handful of pilots be told that the AME will submit the items, but then experience long delays before they are actually submitted. In some cases, I read that AMEs may offer a service to help push the process along faster for a fee, but I can't speak to if that is a real thing. Much like being PIC, my belief was that I was in control of making sure that the FAA got exactly what they wanted as quickly as possible and didn't want to delegate that to someone who was definitely not as vested in the goal as I was personally.

    I did as well. I've seen a lot of posts saying they would lie/omit/etc. In many cases, this would likely go unnoticed. You and I are both part of the VA system, however, and C&P has been used by the FAA as a cross-reference point and put pilots in hot water before. I also hold military folks to a higher standard--we know what integrity is and we should keep that value long after we get that magical DD-214. It makes zero sense to hide something at the beginning and live in a constant state of worry that it could be pulled from you at any time in the future. Yes, going through the hoops upfront can be a lot, but I know that I have absolutely nothing to worry about from here on out.

    Mine was likely much quicker because I was not currently on any medications and have been off for a long time. I also did not have sleep apnea, which has its own set of protocols compared to the mental health items. More anecdotally, I also think that I had an advantage with my AME helping out a bit. I had a typo on my name in Medxpress, which is one of the few things an AME cannot correct during the exam itself and he reached out to the RFS directly to get that fixed up. I think this opened the door for my AME to send it to the Regional Office instead of Oklahoma. I don't actually know the conditions as to when something goes to OKC or DC vs. a regional office, but I suspect this helped escalate the pace. My gut says if it went to OKC, I would not have a success story yet. But I also doubt all regional offices are the same. I am guessing some are probably actually worse than OKC.

    One suggestion I read was to call on non-consecutive days to check-in. For the purposes of this, Friday/Monday count as consecutive days. So, make sure you have a full business day in between calls and you might have luck getting flagged as an interested airman to get things moving forward. My calls were never accusatory in nature, but rather just a "I just wanted to confirm that you received this and find out if there is anything I can do for you to help with this process" mindset and a bit of friendly small talk.

    You're partially right. To paraphrase Dr. Bruce, they don't need to do anything. It's up to you to get it to a point where they have no reason NOT to give you a medical. The burden is on you and not them. As to them treating airmen like crap, I didn't have that experience personally. I did call OKC to check on the status as my RFS is not taking calls during COVID, and assuming you can get through to a person (which is a struggle in itself), the people on the other end I found to be helpful, informative, and polite. The key is that you are asking them for their help and need to recognize that you can't shop for a competitor like you can when your cell phone company ****es you off.

    This ended up being a run of the mill 3rd class. I was not entirely sure if I would need an SI or not, but the off-meds path of the SSRI flowchart suggested that I could get regular issuance. I would have been perfectly happy with an SI if that was the route it ended up going, but in my case, I didn't need to go through those hoops. This saved me an untold thousands of dollars.
     
  10. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the reply brother!!

    One of my mistakes was assuming that my HIMS AME was on the ball, meaning after 26 yrs in the service and being an Army aviator for 20 of those yrs, I was just filling a square ( Dr. Cheins phrase!) and putting blind faith in the system under the assumption that it was just like the Army... fire and forget...

    But! Now I know...
     
  11. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    If your SI needs to go through Washington DC for approval and it has been in the works for a long time, I suggest calling the FAA at 202-267-0435 and leaving a message to have them call you back. This phone number was mentioned by Dr. Bruce (thank you Dr. Bruce!) in another thread.

    FWIW, I called that number for my SI (which had been in the system for over a year), and I got a return phone call shortly after I left the message! The person who called me back was super nice and extremely helpful--he was even able to tell me where my application was in the process. (Note: the caller ID on the return phone call was "Unknown Caller" with no phone number.) It was wonderful to know what was going on.

    I got my SI in November, 2020. It took about 15 months for me to get my SI once the paperwork was sent in.

    I hope this helps...
     
  12. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks brother!! I will definitely get this done ASAP!!
    I actually feel a bit better knowing I am not the only one!
     
  13. jstone

    jstone Ejection Handle Pulled

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    @JimBirk
    was yours for a 3rd class medical?
     
  14. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    Yes, it was a 3rd class medical.

    I'm thinking that COVID-19 combined with the retirement of the Federal Air Surgeon might have slowed things down a bit more than usual for me. Based on the information from my AME and from this forum, I was guessing that the paperwork processing would take about a year. Once the one year mark passed, the waiting seemed like a really, really, long time. o_O

    My thanks goes out to all of the folks who have posted here! It was super helpful to hear about the experiences of others.
     
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  15. jstone

    jstone Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Tell me about it. Been waiting 16.5 months
     
  16. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    Ugh. That's rough--I totally feel your pain.

    Since I was already a certificated pilot, after the year passed by, I started checking the FAA Airman Inquiry webpage to see if my medical showed there. One day the webpage told me I had a third class medical, so I knew I was approved. However, it took over a month after that happened for me to receive the certificate in the mail.

    Hang in there.
     
  17. MalibuJim

    MalibuJim Pre-Flight

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    OP, thank you for your service, but I have to wonder if everything was the same, if all applicants are truly created equal.
     
  18. KeepWatch

    KeepWatch Pre-takeoff checklist

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    FWIW, if you see that you have a medical on the directory, you can call OK City and they'll send you a copy (fax or email, I forget).
     
  19. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    They'll email the PDF. Back when the regs said telegram, they would send faxes. Now that the regs say fax, they send emails.
     
  20. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    Good to know about OK City being able to send a copy. Thanks!

    That said, I'm pretty sure that OK City would not have been able to help me in this case. I say this because the fella I spoke with from Washington D.C said that the medical certificate hadn't yet been signed by the Federal Air Surgeon--thus there would have been no certificate to copy and send to me. This appeared true because the signed certificate I finally received was dated a few days AFTER my DC phone call.

    Another interesting thing was that the expiration date of the signed cert was a date later than what was originally in the database (good news for me!). At some point, the database was updated to match the cert I received.

    Oh, the mysteries of government agencies!
     
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  21. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    Update to my situation:

    As advised, I called DC and they got back to me!! Took a while(a couple of days) but it did happen.

    The guy on the other end of the phone was SUPER COOL!! Actually apologized for not getting back sooner and that as listed above, my certificate has yet to be signed by the Federal Air Surgeon and that I should be getting correspondence after Christmas or at least after New Years.

    So...THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE ADVICE!!
     
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  22. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    58driver, that's awesome!! Make sure to thank Dr. Bruce too--he is the one who originally posted that wonderful phone number. :)

    I totally agree with your "SUPER COOL!!" rating about the person calling from the FAA. FWIW, the FAA fella told me when I would likely receive it, and he was absolutely correct. I hope your experience is the same.

    And congrats on jumping through all of the hoops and getting your SI approved! NICE!!!!
     
  23. 58driver

    58driver Filing Flight Plan

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    Yes!! As always huge shout out to Dr. Bruce!!

    We as a group are extremely lucky to have him
     
  24. JimBirk

    JimBirk Filing Flight Plan

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    AMEN!!

    I love reading about successful FAA Medical hoop-jumping outcomes in this forum. Plus all of the input from members on how to do (or not to do) the jumping, is so valuable. :)