Reporting a Possession Conviction on your FAA Medical Application?

  • ON Jan 10, 2022
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Are you reporting a possession conviction on your FAA medical application? If you are reporting a history of a conviction for possession of an illegal substance (marijuana, cocaine, etc) for the first time on your FAA medical application, your medical application will be deferred by your Aviation Medical Examiner (“AME”). Once your application is deferred, you can expect to receive a letter from the FAA in Oklahoma City – based on our experience, it can take anywhere from a week to over a month to receive correspondence following a deferral. Usually, the FAA’s first letter will request a copy of the narrative police report from the arrest, a copy of the relevant court records, a copy of your driving record, and a statement from you regarding your history of drug use. Be careful, however, as the FAA will typically include a very important request in this initial letter: a request for a drug test to be conducted within 48-hours of receiving the letter. Typically, this letter will come via USPS certified mail and the FAA will know when you received the letter. Be careful that you know who is signing for your mail – if your wife, parent, grandparent, maid, or friend from out of town, is signing for your mail, just know that the 48-hour clock starts once somebody signs for the letter. Do not fail this drug test.

Reporting a possession conviction on your FAA medical application does not have to result in a denial of your application. While you may have to establish ongoing sobriety through monitoring, a singular conviction for possession usually does not result in an airman not being able to fly. Depending on when the charge occurred, the circumstances of the charge, and whether you have discontinued use of illegal substances, the FAA may find you eligible for a regularly issued medical certificate or for a special issuance authorization. If the FAA feels a special issuance authorization is necessary, the “hoops” you will have to jump through to achieve and maintain a medical certificate will depend on whether the FAA determines you have “substance abuse” or “substance dependence.”  A special issuance for “substance abuse” includes a short-term monitoring plan with a HIMS AME. Certain aggravating factors may contribute to the FAA making a determination that you have “substance dependence” and requiring a more aggressive monitoring plan and proof of “recovery.” As a result, it is important to consult with someone who has knowledge of the airman medical certification process prior to submitting any documentation to the FAA for review.

Why involve a FAA medical attorney when you are reporting a possession conviction? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. Ensuring that the appropriate documentation is being developed is critical to either avoiding a monitoring program or limiting the extent to which the FAA will require monitoring. To that end, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. The FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm are here to guide you through the process.

Are you reporting a possession conviction on your FAA medical application? Call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

FAA Medical Denied Because of Adderall?

  • ON Aug 25, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

FAA medical denied because of Adderall? Adderall, as well as all other amphetamines and dextroamphetamines, is a disqualifying medication for the purpose of airman medical certification with the FAA. What does this mean? If you are taking Adderall, your application for medical certification will be denied. You will not be issued a medical certificate while you are taking Adderall. If you submit an application for medical certification and identify Adderall as a medication that you are currently using, your Aviation Medical Examiner will automatically defer your application. Thereafter, the FAA will send you a letter (approximately one to two months after your exam) and likely ask for any combination of treatment records, a current status letter from your treating physician, 12-months of pharmacy records, and/or a neuropsychological evaluation with a HIMS-trained psychologist or neuropsychologist.

Is there a better way? Yes! You should never submit a medical application to the FAA during the time in which you are currently using Adderall. Instead, prior to your application you should talk with your doctor about the possibility of discontinuing your use of the medication. This discontinuation should be properly documented and monitored by your treating physician. Following 90 days or more of discontinuation, then it would be appropriate to submit an application to the FAA for medical certification. At the time of application, you should be able to provide documentation regarding discontinuation of the Adderall, as well as treatment records, a current status letter from your doctor, and pharmacy records (demonstrating that you have not filled any prescriptions for Adderall within 90 days).

Will discontinuing the medication prevent a deferral? No! Unfortunately, you will still need to say “yes” to question 18m. on the medical application due to your history of ADD/ADHD and/or condition for which you have been using the Adderall. This underlying condition will warrant deferral by your Aviation Medical Examiner.

The good news, however, is that it is possible that if you have properly documented discontinuation of the Adderall and if you can demonstrate stability, you may be able to prevent the costly and risky neuropsychological evaluation. While not guaranteed, circumstances may warrant the FAA allowing an individual to be issued a special issuance authorization, without the requirement for cognitive testing. While these cases tend to be reserved for airmen who have long discontinued Adderall and have exhibited no ongoing, cognitive deficiencies, every case is different. Whether you anticipate a deferral or have been denied, consultation with a FAA medical attorney regarding how to best present your history is crucial.

Why involve a FAA attorney in your FAA medical application? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. As with denials for the use of a disqualifying medication, ensuring that your doctor is developing the proper documentation regarding your discontinuation of the medication, as well as the status of your underlying condition, can be a delicate process. To that end, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. This file is what the FAA then utilizes to evaluate whether you are eligible to hold a medical certificate. If you are later denied and wish to appeal that denial, your airman medical file becomes “Exhibit A” before the NTSB or upon reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. So, a FAA attorney can evaluate your records, prepare a plan for best presentation of your case to the FAA, and best argue your medical eligibility to the Federal Air Surgeon, with an eye for potential, future appeal.

FAA medical denied because Adderall? Call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

FAA Medical Denied Because You Use Gabapentin?

  • ON Jun 15, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Is your FAA medical denied because you use Gabapentin? Our firm has handled many cases where an airman was treated with Gabapentin (common brands include Horizant, Gralise, and Neuraptine). Typically, Gabapentin is prescribed by your treating physician to relieve various conditions in the nervous system. We typically see airmen being treated with Gabapentin for conditions like neuropathy and restless leg syndrome. Gabapentin is also identified as an anticonvulsant medication and is used to treat some forms of epilepsy. While you may not be taking Gabapentin for seizures or epilepsy, it really does not matter. The FAA does not accept the use of anti-epileptic or anti-seizure medications as treatment for any medical conditions. Outside of the concern that your use of Gabapentin could be seizure related, the FAA has found that the side effects of this medication may be incompatible with aviation safety.

What should you do if your FAA medical was denied because you use Gabapentin? If you are taking Gabapentin for a non-seizure related issue, the easiest way to achieve certification is to talk with your doctor about discontinuing the medication. If your doctor believes it is safe for you to come off of the medication, have him or her properly document your discontinuation. Following discontinuation for 60-days, your doctor should prepare a letter or progress note, indicating that you have successfully weaned off of the medication and that your underlying condition is stable with no functional impairment. This documentation can then be presented to the FAA for reconsideration.

If you are taking Gabapentin for seizure prevention or for epilepsy, the FAA’s inquiry will extend beyond your use of the medication. To that end, the FAA will likely deny your application for medical certification, as epilepsy is a specifically disqualifying condition, as found in Part 67 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The FAA does have the regulatory discretion to deny your application for medical certification based on your use of a “disqualifying” medication. That regulation can be found at 14 C.F.R. 67.113 (c), 67.213 (c), and 67.313 (c). Nevertheless, if you are denied because you use a disqualifying medication, such as Gabapentin, there are usually solutions to discussing medication modification with your doctor or giving the FAA assurances regarding your proper use of the medication.

Why involve a FAA attorney in your FAA medical application? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. As with denials for the use of a disqualifying medication, ensuring that your doctor is developing the proper documentation regarding your discontinuation of the medication, as well as the status of your underlying condition, can be a delicate process. To that end, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. This file is what the FAA then utilizes to evaluate whether you are eligible to hold a medical certificate. If you are later denied and wish to appeal that denial, your airman medical file becomes “Exhibit A” before the NTSB or upon reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. So, a FAA attorney can evaluate your records, prepare a plan for best presentation of your case to the FAA, and best argue your medical eligibility to the Federal Air Surgeon, with an eye for potential, future appeal.

Is your FAA medical denied because you use Gabapentin? Call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

FAA Medical Denied Because of Coronary Artery Disease?

  • ON Jun 14, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Is your FAA medical denied because of coronary artery disease? The Federal Aviation Regulations relevant to standards for airman medical certification are found in Part 67 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Therein, the FAA has identified 15 specific conditions which are disqualifying; other conditions not specifically stated therein may be disqualifying at the Federal Air Surgeon’s discretion. One such specifically disqualifying condition, however, is “coronary heart disease that has required treatment or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant.” As you can see, there is some nuance to this regulation, such that your case may be arguable as to whether you have “required treatment” or if your case has been “symptomatic or clinically significant.” What is “treatment?” What are “symptoms?” What is “clinical significance?”

Many times, airmen are denied a medical certificate because of coronary artery disease following treatment with a stent or bypass surgery. The FAA has a protocol for certification following such surgical intervention. The tests associated with that protocol sometimes reveal a discrepancy, however, between what your treating physician feels is medically acceptable risk, versus what the FAA feels is an acceptable risk for the purposes of aviation safety. Oftentimes, in practice, our firm handles cases where a treating physician opted not to treat an occlusion with a stent, but rather treated the occlusion with medication. This less invasive approach may be medically acceptable. The FAA may look at this information, however, and suggest that the level of plaque buildup left behind presents a risk which is not sufficiently mitigated. In those circumstances, for example, the FAA will suggest that that this is “untreated” coronary artery disease which is “clinically significant.” Arguing your physician’s position of sufficiently mitigated risk may be the key to certification.

There are many ways that your arteries may get on the FAA’s radar (i.e. ischemia on a stress test, concerns on an echocardiogram, etc.). The key, however, is first understanding what the FAA’s concerns are (not always a simple task) and then pinpointing an argument as to why any disease is either not “significant” or no longer presenting with symptoms. Reversing a denial because of coronary artery disease (or being issued a special issuance authorization) means methodically going through the data and arguing to the FAA why you do not pose a risk to aviation safety and/or why any risk is appropriately mitigated with medication and observation.

Why involve a FAA attorney in your FAA medical application? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. As you can see with denials for coronary artery disease, presentation of medical data to the FAA for such a condition is a delicate application of fact to law (i.e. why does your situation not meet the level of “clinical significance”)? Furthermore, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. This file is what the FAA then utilizes to evaluate whether you are eligible to hold a medical certificate. If you are later denied and wish to appeal that denial, your airman medical file becomes “Exhibit A” before the NTSB or upon reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. So, a FAA attorney can evaluate your records, prepare a plan for best presentation of your case to the FAA, and best argue your medical eligibility to the Federal Air Surgeon, with an eye for potential, future appeal.

Is your FAA medical denied because of coronary artery disease? Call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

Aviation Lawyer For My FAA Medical Certificate?

  • ON Jun 08, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Often, we are asked by prospective clients, “do I need an aviation lawyer for my FAA medical certificate?” This question usually comes from airmen who have spoken with an Aviation Medical Examiner (“AME”) before calling The Ison Law Firm. Without naming names, there are a handful of AMEs that constantly question why an airman would ever consider hiring a lawyer to address a medical concern with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”).

The aviation attorneys at The Ison Law Firm are an invaluable resource for combating the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Division when applying for medical certification. As much as an AME would like to think that his or her medical prowess can affect the outcome of an airman’s medical application, the fact remains that an AME’s role in the FAA medical certification process is limited to a small part. And while this small part may be useful downstream in the process, an airman will likely need the representation of a seasoned aviation medical certification lawyer should the airman’s medical application be deferred by the AME or denied by the FAA.

Whether you are a seasoned airman or are just beginning your journey in aviation, most airmen understand that the privilege of operating an aircraft comes with the responsibility of understanding countless Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”). In fact, interoffice jokes around the watercooler sometimes will fixate on how a pilot thinks he or she is a based on the shear volume of FARs that are required to be read and comprehended in order to fly. To that end, most airmen are aware that medical certification standards for the operation of aircraft are found at 14 C.F.R. Part 67. What is often lost in the nuance of the FARs, and certainly on some AMEs, is that the certification of airmen under 14 C.F.R. Part 67 is not entirely premised on just the practice of medicine. To the contrary, the certification of airman under Part 67 is first based upon regulation which, by its very nature, suggests the eventual application of law to facts. And this is where FAA medical lawyers are needed!

In a perfect world, an airman goes to an AME and the AME immediately issues the airman a medical certificate. However, in situations where the airman has a history of certain disqualifying conditions under Part 67, the AME will have to defer the airman’s medical application to the FAA. After deferring an application to the FAA, the AME has little control over the outcome of the matter. The airman will likely be left to navigate the nebulous and vague requests made by the FAA for additional information, costly testing, and possible denial, depending upon the specific disqualifying issue. What is an airman to do at that point? If this was just a medical process, the AME would be able to assist. However, by this point, it should be evident that the airman will need a FAA medical certification lawyer to navigate the FARs precluding his or her ability to obtain a medical certificate.

The aviation medical certification lawyers at The Ison Law Firm are experienced in handling all types of medical certification matters before the FAA after an AME defers an airman’s medical application. The AMEs that belittle the use of lawyers fail to appreciate the process beyond the flight physical. If an airman’s medical application is denied, then that airman will ultimately have the option to appeal the Federal Air Surgeon’s final denial to the National Transportation Board of Safety (“NTSB”). At the NTSB level, 49 U.S. Code § 44703 requires the airman to present evidence by a preponderance of the evidence, in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence. To that end, the litigation process leading up to the hearing will require the airman to understand the various Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as the airman engages in the discovery process and exchanges discovery with the Administrator, as well as the volumes of governing NTSB opinions.

So, why would an airman ever consider hiring an aviation attorney for a medical application? For starters, the documentation provided to the FAA and the statements made by an airman and the airman’s medical providers will form the basis for the evidence to be presented at a hearing in support of that airman’s qualifications to hold a medical certificate. In other words, knowing what to provide, when to provide it, and how to frame it, before litigation even begins, is incredibly important in the medical certification process. These are techniques and strategies best left to competent legal professionals, and not to be trusted to AMEs that think they know the law just because they are doctors that practice within the realm of aviation regulation.

If your AME questions why you would hire a lawyer for your medical application with the FAA or if you are asking yourself “do I need an aviation lawyer for my FAA medical certificate,” first call the lawyers at The Ison Law Firm.  We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

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