Have you received a FAA medical denial for ADHD?

Let’s analyze how you got to a denial and what can be done to appeal the denial.

At least three questions on the FAA medical application (Form 8500-8) can identify to the FAA that an individual potentially has a history of ADHD. Specifically, those questions are question 17 (the question about “current use” of medications), question 18m (the question about “mental disorders of any sort”), and question 19 (the question about visits to healthcare professionals in the past 3 years).

Question 17 can identify for the FAA that an individual is currently taking a disqualifying medication such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, etc, commonly used to treat ADHD. Perhaps most problematic is that these medications are disqualifying in and of themselves. Even if you can disprove a legitimate history or diagnosis of ADHD (discussed further below), use of a disqualifying medication within 90 days of application will usually lead to a denial. If you are currently taking any of these medications or other type of stimulant, expect your Aviation Medical Examiner (“AME”) to defer your application and ultimately for the FAA to deny your application until the medication is discontinued (and potentially for at least 90 days thereafter).

Question 18m. speaks to “mental disorders of any sort.” It goes on to give examples of “depression, anxiety, etc.” The FAA typically expects applicants to also identify at question 18m. whether, in their life, have they been diagnosed with, had, or presently have a history of ADHD. What does this mean? If you were diagnosed with ADHD when you were in school but haven’t taken medication or experienced symptoms in 15 years, you still are required to answer “yes” to question 18m. Ultimately, a “yes” response to 18m. will most definitely warrant deferral by the AME and evaluation of your eligibility for a medical certificate by the FAA.

Question 19 speaks to “visits to healthcare professionals within the last 3 years.” If on this question, an applicant identifies that he or she has been to see his or her doctor for treatment of ADHD, this will likely warrant deferral. Be careful that if you have seen your doctor and are responding “yes” to question 19 and your doctor diagnosed you with ADHD (or suggested that you had ADHD), you will also likely need to respond “yes” to question 18m.

Assuming you appropriately responded to one of these three questions, your application was likely deferred and the FAA sent you a letter, requesting medical records. If after that the FAA denied your application, you can seek reconsideration of that denial by making a few substantive arguments. First, if you’ve not taken a disqualifying medication for greater than 90 days, you can potentially argue to the FAA that your underlying diagnosis was not accurate to begin with. In this case, you can cast doubt on the original diagnosis and attempt to avoid further evaluation.

Alternatively, upon 90-days of discontinuation of medication, you can potentially undergo the requested neuropsychological testing prescribed by the FAA. If successful with testing, you can then make further arguments that you do not have an aeromedically significant medical condition. Here’s more information on the FAA’s battery of neuropsychological testing: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/dec_cons/disease_prot/adhd/ 

There are also considerations for appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board, but this option will be also be dependent on discontinuation of the disqualifying medication and your ability to develop an argument that the underlying diagnosis was not accurate.

Ultimately, a FAA medical denial for ADHD is almost never the end of the road for an airman. The FAA’s denial letter may look daunting, but time and time again, airmen with a history of ADHD are being issued medical certification following the appropriate presentation of the airmen’s fitness for flight.

If you have a FAA medical denial for ADHD, call your aviation attorney at The Ison Law Firm for a consultation. An attorney that focuses on FAA medical denials may be able to guide you through the process and work with the FAA to achieve certification. Learn more here:  thepilotlawyer.com/faa-medical/

This article does not in any way counsel the reader as to how to appropriately respond to questions on the FAA medical application, nor does it give medical advice regarding the accuracy of the reader’s medical history. The reader should always consult his or her doctor before discontinuation of any medication.