Are you trying to get a FAA medical certificate with ADHD? You aren’t alone. In our experience, ADHD is one of the most common reasons why an Aviation Medical Examiner would defer a medical certificate application to the FAA for further evaluation. In our practice, it has been our concern that the threshold for being diagnosed with ADHD as a child or even as an adult has been fairly low. To underscore that point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has produced data showing that an estimated number of children aged between 3 and 17 having ever been diagnosed with ADHD is 6 million! The problem with this from a FAA medical certification perspective is that even if an applicant was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, the applicant must report that diagnosis to the FAA on his or her application for airman medical certification. Fortunately, having a history of ADHD does not have to end your flying endeavors.
Currently, the process for obtaining a FAA medical certificate with ADHD can be broken down into two tracks or thought processes:
- FAA ADHD Fast Track: if you are an applicant meeting very specific criteria, you can avoid deferral to the FAA by the AME if you undertake specific preparations prior to submitting your application. These preparations would include gathering your records, undertaking an abbreviated evaluation with a psychologist or neuropsychologist, as well as preparing additional, specific documents for review by the AME. You can learn more about the FAA’s ADHD Fast Track in our previous blog on the subject.
- FAA Standard Track: if you fall outside of the FAA’s ADHD Fast Track criteria, you will require what the FAA calls the “standard track.” Most applicants that we encounter fall within this category. Most commonly, applicants fall into this category because they have either recently used or are using medication to treat ADHD or the applicant has a history of additional mental health diagnoses. Under this track, however, the FAA will require the airman to undertake a complete battery of neuropsychological testing with a HIMS-trained neuropsychologist.
Most applicants that our firm encounters can achieve FAA medical certification with ADHD if they follow one of the above-referenced tracks. But what happens if you fail to be successful with initial interview under the Fast Track or initial testing with the evaluating neuropsychologist under the standard track? In the event you perform inadequately during an examination with the neuropsychologist (in either track), you always have the option to undertake additional testing. Specifically, the FAA offers a supplemental battery of testing for individuals whose initial testing demonstrates aeromedically significant concerns. Notwithstanding, our firm has encountered airmen who have undertaken neuropsychological testing multiple times, only to ultimately demonstrate that the applicant’s cognitive abilities are not aeromedically deficient.
The takeaway? Neuropsychologist testing for FAA medical certification is not a “one and done” ordeal. There are usually multiple opportunities for further examination and investigation in order to establish eligibility for airman medical certification.
If you are trying to get a FAA medical certificate with ADHD, we recommend you consider the following:
- You must discontinue treatment with ADHD medication (such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Focalin) and remain stable for 90 days prior to undertaking neuropsychological evaluation. It is important that you consult with your treating physician prior to discontinuing medication and that your treating physician document the date upon which you discontinued treatment. Documentation from your treating physician stating how you are doing following discontinuation of medication can aid the neuropsychologist in formulating an opinion regarding your current function and risk to aviation safety.
- You must understand what is contained within your medical records. Time and time again, airmen will contact our firm not understanding that the FAA will want to review a complete copy of your treating physician’s records relative to your ADHD history. Even if you perform flawlessly on neuropsychological testing or if you are issued a certificate under the FAA’s ADHD Fast Track, the FAA will still want to review your medical records. Oftentimes, an applicant’s medical records contain additional information which may be significant to the FAA. For example, we frequently find that treatment records may contain information about additional diagnoses or information about social history (such as alcohol or drug use) which might be concerning to the FAA. Obtaining and reviewing a copy of your medical records before applying for an airman medical certificate can give you sufficient lead time to address any concerns which may be in your medical records.
- You must understand that just like every licensed pilot is not the best pilot, every neuropsychologist may not be the best neuropsychologist. Just because there may be a HIMS evaluator close to where you live, doesn’t always mean you should go to that HIMS neuropsychologist. We recommend that before you undertake evaluation with any psychologist or neuropsychologist that you have at least a phone call with the evaluator in order to ensure that you can develop an appropriate rapport and that you are comfortable with the evaluator’s level of experience and understanding of the FAA’s policies and procedures. Learn more about this process here.
- You must start early. Even with the FAA’s ADHD Fast Track, the process takes time. If you or your loved one is trying to obtain a FAA medical certificate by a certain date or time period, you must start on obtaining the FAA medical certificate as soon as possible.
- You should consider taking a few flight lessons before undertaking neuropsychological testing if you are a student pilot. The reason for doing this is because a letter from a Certified Flight Instructor can go a long way toward assuaging any concerns the neuropsychologist or the FAA may have regarding your performance as a pilot.
- You should always be well rested before undertaking neuropsychological testing.
If you are trying to obtain a FAA medical certificate with ADHD, consider a consultation with a FAA medical defense attorney at The Ison Law Firm before seeing an Aviation Medical Examiner. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case to your AME or the FAA. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.