FAA Hotline Complaint

  • ON Apr 22, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

FAA hotline complaints can cause a big headache for an unsuspecting airman. A FAA hotline complaint starts with a complaint made through the FAA’s hotline reporting form, wherein the general public can make reports via an online forum regarding aviation safety issues. By design, anybody can make a report about anyone or anything through the FAA hotline reporting form. As a result, and unfortunately, the FAA hotline oftentimes is misused and becomes a forum for individuals to present malicious and inaccurate attacks against their ex-spouse, ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, an employee, or an airman they just don’t like.

Seemingly the most common types of reports made through the FAA hotline are about an airman’s fitness for duty. Common hotline complaints made about airmen include allegations of alcohol use, drug use, undisclosed medical disorders, observed behavior, etc. Such a report will prompt the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine to inquire as to an airman’s eligibility to hold a medical certificate. The FAA has the authority to make such an inquiry pursuant to 14 CFR 67.413(a), as a hotline report gives the FAA a reasonable basis for redetermination of an airman’s eligibility to meet the standards prescribed in Part 67.

If as a result of a FAA hotline complaint you have received a letter from the Office of Aerospace Medicine requesting medical documentation, be careful how you respond. If you provide a response to the Office of Aerospace Medicine and offer too much information, or too little information, your medical could be denied or revoked. If the hotline complaint reveals that you have failed to report a medical condition on your application for medical certification, the FAA could revoke your airman certificate for “falsification,” too. As a result, it is important to consult with an aviation attorney as to an appropriate response to the FAA’s inquiry, as any such response could be used as evidence against you in an enforcement action.

If you are the subject of a FAA hotline complaint, call the pilot lawyers at The Ison Law Firm today – 1-855-FAA-1215. An aviation attorney should be able to provide counsel on an appropriate response to the FAA and work to achieve a disposition with the FAA. Aviation law is all we do and nothing else!

Applying for a FAA Medical Certificate While taking SSRI Medication?

  • ON Apr 06, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Applying for a FAA medical certificate while taking SSRI medication does not does not automatically mean you will never get to fly again. Airmen with a history of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) usage may still be eligible to hold a medical certificate, despite their history with SSRI medications, through the special issuance process. While SSRI medication disqualifies an individual from an aeromedical eligibility standpoint, if you can establish stability while on the SSRI medication, with no cognitive deficits caused by the SSRI use, then the FAA will consider you for a special issuance authorization – meaning you still get to go fly!

Often times, an individual may be prescribed SSRI medication by his/her treating physicians to combat depression, feelings of sadness, or other external factors affecting that person. SSRI medications are commonly known as antidepressants and generally work by increasing levels of serotonin (the “feel good hormone”) within the brain. Consequently, airmen with a history depression, anxiety, or some other mood disorder may be prescribed SSRI medications such as Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), or Sertraline (Zoloft).

If an airman elects to discontinue use of SSRI medication, his/her Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) may note that fact and defer issuance of the medical certificate, until such time as the airman’s treating physician can opine that the airman is of a stable mood. Typically, the FAA wants to see at least a 60-day period of no SSRI medication usage when an airman elects to discontinue SSRI medication. There are a few ways to document this weaning properly and in a way that will give the FAA more confidence in the airman’s prognosis. It is important that when you attempt to wean off SSRI medication that you do so under the careful watch of a medical physician’s supervision. If, however, the airman elects to continue using SSRI medication, the analysis becomes more involved, as you will see below.

In order to properly assess an airman’s aeromedical eligibility due to continued SSRI medication usage, he/she will likely need to see a Human Intervention Motivational Study (HIMS) AME for proper assessment of his/her aeromedical fitness.  To learn more about the role and purpose of a HIMS AME, you may consider reading the following blog: Selecting a HIMS AME.  As such, the HIMS AME will need to inquire into several areas of the airman’s medical history to determine whether he/she is eligible for a medical.

If the airman is taking Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, or Celexa, then the HIMS AME may be able to recommend medical certification to the FAA. If any one of these SSRI medications are being used by the airman, then the HIMS AME will likely inquire as to the length of time that the airman has been on that prescribed medication. If the period of prescription is less than six (6) months, the HIMS AME will likely require thee airman to remain on a stable dosage of that SSRI medication for at least six (6) months before consideration of a FAA medical certificate.

If, however, the airman has been on one of the above-mentioned SSRI medications for at least six (6) months, the HIMS AME will then consider additional information, such as the nature of the underlying diagnosis and the treatment. If the underlying diagnosis and treatment suggests that the airman has a history of, or is currently using, multiple psychiatric medications and/or has a history of unacceptable diagnosis or symptoms, the HIMS AME will likely defer the medical application to the FAA. This, of course, is a less than desirable outcome and should be discussed with the FAA medical attorneys at The Ison Law Firm for further guidance and representation.

Should the HIMS AME find that there is an acceptable diagnosis and treatment relating to the airman’s need for SSRI medication, then the HIMS AME will require the airman to provide a typed statement, describing his/her mental health history, antidepressant use, and any other treatment related to the SSRI medication usage. This written statement must be signed and dated. Additionally, the airman will be required to provide copies of all medical/treatment records related to his/her mental health history. Typically, the FAA will require treatment records for past related symptoms where the airman was not on SSRI as well as from the date that the airman began treatment to the present.

Additionally, the FAA will likely require a written report from the airman’s treating physician, as well as a psychiatric evaluation from a board-certified or HIMS-trained psychiatrist, along with CogScreen results and a neurocognitive evaluation from a HIMS-trained neuropsychologist. This information is time sensitive and must be current within the last 90 days for FAA purposes. Once this information is gathered and given to the HIMS AME, the HIMS AME will send all document for initial review to the FAA for a decision on the airman’s medical certification.

Given the delicate nature of SSRI medication usage in relation to FAA medical certification, having an experienced attorney representing your interests throughout the medical certification process is essential. Often times, we are able to use our contacts within the aviation industry to help expedite what would otherwise be a lengthy, confusing, and costly process.

Applying for a FAA Medical Certificate While taking SSRI Medication?  If you are planning to apply for medical certification with the FAA and have a history of SSRI medication usage, call the pilot lawyers at The Ison Law Firm today – 1-855-FAA-1215. Aviation law is all we do and nothing else!

 

Getting a FAA Medical Certificate with a Misdemeanor  

  • ON Mar 07, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Getting a FAA medical certificate with a misdemeanor on your record is not impossible. Oftentimes a single misdemeanor conviction may not be significant to your eligibility for FAA medical certification, meaning that deferral by your Aviation Medical Examiner (“AME”) won’t be warranted. The relevant consideration, however, is what the misdemeanor charge was for and how many convictions you have on your record. For instance, some drug and/or alcohol related misdemeanors may warrant further evaluation by the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine’s Drug and Alcohol department. Whereas a single misdemeanor conviction for “petty theft” when you were a teenager may mean very little to the FAA. On the other hand, if you have numerous misdemeanor charges, no matter if they are drug and alcohol related, the FAA will likely inquire if the repeated offenses could have been caused by an underlying mental health disorder, such as a personality disorder.

There’s an important distinction when it comes to getting a FAA medical certificate with a misdemeanor. That distinction is whether you have been arrested for a misdemeanor crime versus whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime. The FAA only requires you to report a non-traffic related misdemeanor conviction on your medical application at question 18w. That is, just because you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor charge, but later not convicted of the crime, you do not have to report the offense on your FAA medical application; with one notable exception. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor charge which involved drugs or alcohol and which either involved driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of your driving privileges or which resulted in attendance at an educational or rehabilitative program, you will have to report the arrest at question 18v. Importantly, these are the only offenses which are reportable, even if you were not later convicted of the charge.

There are other things to consider regarding getting a FAA medical certificate with a misdemeanor. As discussed above, a conviction for a misdemeanor offense need only be reported on your FAA medical application, with one exception. This, however, begs the question of whether you’ve actually been convicted of the offense. Specifically, what you may need to figure out is whether your plea of “nolo contendere,” “no contest,” or if an “adjudication withheld,” is considered a conviction and required to be reported at question 18w.

While a single misdemeanor conviction, not related to drugs or alcohol, may not make it too difficult getting a FAA medical certificate, it will all depend on what the offense was, when it happened, and how many offenses there are. It is always important to be prepared when filling out an application, in case your history triggers a deferral by the AME to the FAA.

If you are having trouble getting a FAA medical certificate with a misdemeanor, call the FAA medical attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We can help you assess whether your charge needs to be reported on your next FAA medical certificate, or if you should have reported your misdemeanor on a previous medical application. Then, we can work with you and the FAA to establish your eligibility for medical certification, despite your misdemeanor.

We are aviation attorneys. We only do aviation law. Nothing Else.

Fighting a DOT alcohol test?

  • ON Mar 05, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Fighting a DOT alcohol test? Something every airman fighting a DOT alcohol test should consider is whether the Evidentiary Breath Test (EBT) instrument was producing accurate results. If not, it may be possible to successfully challenge a positive, random alcohol test under 14 C.F.R. § 120. While we highly recommend that you obtain competent legal counsel that handles Part 120 and Part 40 drug and alcohol testing cases on a daily basis, you will certainly want to review all the information provided from the FAA through the Enforcement Investigative Report (EIR) in order to determine whether the FAA can satisfy certain regulatory requirements under 14 C.F.R. § 120 and 49 C.F.R. § 40.

Per 14 C.F.R. § 120.203(b), “[e]ach employer shall ensure that all alcohol testing conducted pursuant to this subpart complies with the procedures set forth in 49 CFR part 40. The provisions of 49 CFR part 40 that address alcohol testing are made applicable to employers by this subpart.”  Oftentimes your legal counsel will review 49 C.F.R. § 40.233 to see whether the FAA can prove that the EBT used for your breath test underwent proper care in order to validate that test.

The title of 49 C.F.R. § 40.233  asks a particularly appropriate question for the purpose of determining how to analyze the validity of an EBT result: “[w]hat are the requirements for proper use and care of EBTs?” While this regulatory section contains multiple requirements for the FAA and testing facility to satisfy, one area, in particular, that must be paid attention to is the EBT’s Qualified Assurance Plan (QAP).

Think of the QAP as the master instructions for an EBT. The QAP is especially important because 49 C.F.R. § 40.233(a)(1) states that the QAP must be submitted for NHSTA approval before an Evidentiary Breath Test (EBT) can be used by the DOT. The QAP must “specify the methods used to perform external calibration checks on the EBT, the tolerances within which the EBT is regarded as being in proper calibration, and the intervals at which these checks must be performed.” Id. (emphasis added). As such, 49 C.F.R. § 40.233(b) states that the manufacturer of an EBT must include “instructions for its use and care consistent with the QAP.”

If a testing facility fails to comply with the requirements EBT’s QAP by not performing the external calibration checks of the EBT at the intervals the instructions specify then they could have a big problem because they could be in violation of 49 C.F.R. § 40.233(c)(1). Specifically, 49 C.F.R. §40.233(c)(1) states that the user of the EBT must “follow the manufacturer’s instructions…including performance of external calibration checks at the intervals the instructions specify.” Failure of the testing facility to properly maintain records or timely perform these accuracy checks could result in a positive EBT result being invalidated.

For example, the QAP for the Intoximeter RBT IV/Alco-Sensor IV states that “if an accuracy check has not occurred within the past 31 days, an accuracy check must be run prior to running a subject test.” Consequently, if you are found to have alcohol in your system during a breath test while using an Intoximeter RBT IV/Alco-Sensor IV, you will want to know when the last time the instrument was checked for accuracy. If it has been more than 31 days before your test, you might have an argument that the results should be invalidated because of the requirements of 49 C.F.R. §40.233(c)(1) and, by extension, 14 C.F.R. §120.203(b).

If you have received a positive, random breath test while performing a safety sensitive function, call the FAA defense attorneys at The Ison Law Firm at 855-FAA-1215 to discuss your legal rights and options. We are aviation attorneys. We only do aviation law! Nothing else!

Can I Get a FAA Medical Certificate with a TBI?

  • ON Mar 03, 2021
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  • BY Anthony Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Can I Get a FAA Medical Certificate with a  TBI? This is a question that we are asked frequently by airmen who have had a head injury. This firm most frequently sees airmen attempting to achieve FAA medical certification despite a history of traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) resulting from an automobile or aircraft accident, a fall, injuries incurred in the military, or as the result of another traumatic injury.  Of course, every case is different; however, it may be possible to achieve FAA medical certification following a TBI. There are very specific items that the FAA will evaluate in order to establish whether your history of TBI puts you at risk for developing aeromedically significant, side-effects, subsequent to the injury.

In practice, the FAA stresses a concern for posttraumatic epilepsy or seizures, following a TBI. Specifically, the FAA has identified that excess risk of seizures remains elevated for 10 years after mild brain injury. For the most part, we commonly work with airmen who are several months, post-injury and experiencing no symptoms. In most cases, the airman’s treating neurologist has even cleared the airman back to work and has expressed no concern for the development of seizures. The FAA, however, in an abundance of caution, will typically be very cautious with how long the agency will require an airman to wait, prior to considering the airman for medical certification.

If you’ve had a TBI, you can expect the FAA to want to review a number of items, to assess your neurological and neuropsychological status, as well as your risk for developing seizures. This may include review of all medical records, including pre-hospital, emergency department, specialty consultation, and operative reports. Typically, the FAA will also request a neuropsychological evaluation (to FAA standards), as well as a MRI with specific hemosiderin protocol.

If the FAA is asking you for medical records and evaluation following a TBI, be careful how you respond and what information you provide. Keep in mind that you may be able to argue to the FAA that previously completed, diagnostic workup supports your eligibility for medical certification and that additional evaluation may be unnecessary. If there is an opportunity to avoid unnecessary, expensive, and potentially problematic evaluation and imaging, that opportunity should be considered with a FAA medical attorney who is familiar with the FAA’s TBI protocol.

If you are asking “can I Get a FAA Medical Certificate with a History of TBI,” call to have a consultation with a FAA defense attorney at The Ison Law Firm. Our attorneys can evaluate your case and provide important counsel, as you develop an appropriate response to the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine.