There are a lot of questions these days about reconciling VA disability benefits on FAA medical applications. If you have failed to identify your receipt of disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) on your application(s) for FAA medical certification, Form 8500-8, how should you fix this error? There have been many theories swirling around the aviation community as to how to best rectify your errors on your application(s). Should you just submit a new medical application, Form 8500-8, and identify your complete medical history? Should you take specific action to amend your application(s) to correct your error(s)? Our firm has historically instructed airmen to take efforts to amend and correct any incorrect answers on his/her application(s) for airman medical certification.
Within the past few months, the FAA has evolved to handling cases wherein an airman has been discovered to have not appropriately reported his or her receipt of VA disability benefits on his or her application(s) for airman medical certification, by offering “reconciliation” or “amnesty.” The FAA has identified airmen “meeting certain criteria” who have not appropriately reported receipt of VA disability benefits and have offered to those airmen an opportunity to submit a new medical application, by a certain date, wherein the airmen shall report, in full, his or her receipt of VA disability benefits. In doing so, the FAA is reconciling any omission(s) made by the airman and seemingly forgoing enforcement action against those airmen. It should be noted that airmen who are offered “reconciliation” are still receiving deferrals by their Aviation Medical Examiners, automatically, upon their application for a new medical certificate. Therefore, it is important that airmen undertake efforts to prepare for establishing their eligibility for airman medical certification as quickly as possible upon receipt of a letter from the FAA.
It is critical to note, however, that the FAA’s “amnesty” or “reconciliation” program does not appear to be a blanket instruction or call to action by the FAA for airmen to rectify their omission(s) by submitting a new medical application by a certain date. The concern at our firm is that the phrase “airmen meeting certain criteria” is not a blanket acceptance of all airmen into a realm of amnesty. Instead, within the past few months, the FAA has sent correspondence to those airmen seemingly meeting criteria for “amnesty,” correspondence, inviting these airmen to apply for a new medical certificate and to correct his or her applications(s) by a certain date provided in the letter. If you are not an airman whom the FAA believes “meets certain criteria,” submitting a new medical application, without correcting your previous medical application(s), could be used as an admission against you in an enforcement action.
A recent case before the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) regarding this very issue, Administrator v. Johns, EA-5949 (2023), suggests that airmen can amend their applications for airman medical certification. In doing so, the airmen should demonstrate their desire or intent to amend their previous application(s) for airman medical certification. This should be done before the FAA contacts you. It is our position at our firm that airmen who have not appropriately reported their history on their application(s) for airman medical certification and have not received correspondence from the FAA, are better protected by taking efforts to amend their previous application(s). The concern, however, with submitting a new medical application, providing the appropriate responses on the application, and hoping that doing so will correct your error(s) on previous application(s), is not consistent with the NTSB’s findings in Administrator v. Johns, and further, it is not consistent with the FAA’s previous acceptance of such amendments.
Ultimately, if you have received a letter from the FAA asking for you to “reconcile” your receipt of VA disability benefits on your application(s) for airman medical certification, you should consult with an aviation attorney and take advantage of any reconciliation opportunities being offered to you. If you have not received a letter from the FAA and you have not appropriately reported your medical history to the FAA, you should, instead, make an effort to amend your application(s) for airman medical certification.
Reconciling VA disability benefits on FAA medical applications should be done via amendment, in cases where you have not been contacted by the FAA. If you have been contacted by the FAA and given an opportunity to reconcile your omission(s), you should begin gathering the appropriate documentation to establish your eligibility to hold an airman medical certificate, as your file will have been flagged and your AME will not be able to issue you a medical certificate upon submitting your new application.