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I am a combat veteran who was diagnosed with moderate PTSD after getting out last year. I decided to seek treatment and, upon reevaluation, am now at a very mild rating for PTSD with no personality disorders, and no use of medications ever. I am not even eligible for disability compensation that is how NOT severe my PTSD is or ever was. I am currently in the process of trying to get my FAA Medical Certificate for a student pilot and the FAA came back wanting these extreme and expensive tests that were never conducted by my psychologist because they were deemed unnecessary. My psychologist is writing the report they requested, but I have a feeling they will dismiss it and cancel/deny my application because I only have my medical records and my psychological report and cannot afford the psychiatric evaluations and the VA cannot do them for me because they are not medically needed.

Now to my question, if they deny it, then I will reapply again, however as I am as close to 'cured' as possible when it comes to PTSD and it does not affect my reactions to stressful situations or anything that could come up in flying (I've been in a helicopter during the healing process so I know), do I just NOT put anything in the mental disorders box? And if so will they hit me back with "hey we know you applied last time with this, so you're a liar"? PTSD is a curable thing and I feel even more normal than before I even joined the military. Thanks for your time.

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I'm putting this as a comment instead of an answer because my experience ended when I retired in 1999 and because my view on this matter may be controversial these days. Given those two caveats, the common wisdom back in my day was to never admit to anything when applying for a medical that would not be obvious in a very cursory medical examination. Unfortunately, as I remember, once you admit to something, you're stuck with it. Also, shop carefully for your AME. There are (or at least used to be) huge differences between AMEs insofar as their understanding of the applicant's situation. –  Terry Jun 17 at 23:44

4 Answers 4

Unfortunately, you have to report it. It even says so right on the medical application (emphasis added by me):

18) Medical History - HAVE YOU EVER IN YOUR LIFE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH, HAD, OR DO YOU PRESENTLY HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING? Answer "yes" or "no" for every condition listed below (All "yes" answers require a comment. Click Add Comments to add or edit a comment).

...

Mental disorders of any sort: depression, anxiety, etc.

...

Based on your own admission, you had it at one point and are now cured. This means that you have "at some point in your life" been diagnosed with it.

Unfortunately, the FAA takes a very hard line on this kind of thing and it does not surprise me in the least that they are now requiring a battery of expensive tests in order to prove that you are fit to fly. I don't like it either, but it does keep the people out who "say" that they are cured when they aren't, either because they don't realize it or because they just want to fly anyway.

If it is denied, then you can appeal it, but I would suggest getting good professional help. As voretaq7 mentioned, AOPA has a very good medical service that helps their members for free. Membership is pretty inexpensive, and more than worth it just for this service, plus they have many many other benefits as well.

A couple of other questions on the site that may help you:

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I think AOPA has moved a lot of the medical stuff into the "Pilot Protection Services" program these days, so it's a little extra on top of the basic AOPA membership (the "Plus" tier of Pilot Protection Services is $99 as of right now, and that gets you medical records review prior to submitting stuff to the FAA). It's still a pretty darn good deal, especially if you have medical stuff going on. –  voretaq7 Jun 18 at 16:17

This is one of those cases where your instructor should have encouraged you to talk to an FAA medical certification expert before you talk to an AME (something like AOPA's "Pilot Protection Services") so they can help you get everything in order. You've already talked to an AME, but you can still use those same resources to help you deal with their bureaucratic hurdles now that you're in the process.

The gist of the situation is is "You probably need to get a Special Issuance medical", which means you'll need to supply a bunch of supporting documentation to the FAA. AOPA's folks can work with you, your psychologist/psychiatrist, and your AME to help cut through the FAA red tape. This was talked about in the "Ask Medical Certification" section of FAA Safety Briefing in January 2012, though not in any great depth.

The good news is none of this has to really hobble your training: You're just chained to your instructor until you can browbeat the FAA into issuing you a medical (and in the worst case it sounds like that's just a matter of money to get the tests the FAA wants done - as with all things aviation, money is what makes it go).


To the second part of your question: anything you report to the FAA in your medical application is "on the record": You can't just leave the box blank on your next application, because eventually there will be a red flag (and "eventually" tends to be right away now that all the medical stuff is processed electronically).

Also note that if you are denied a medical certificate (or have one revoked) you need to jump through the hoops to get a valid medical issued in order to fly. (Unfortunately this includes Sport Pilot privileges: you cannot self-certify under the "Driver's License Medical" if you've had your most recent FAA medical application denied. Once you've got a valid medical though you can let it expire and exercise Sport Pilot privileges, and my understanding is that holds even if it was a Special Issuance medical.)

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If he has been cured then no special issuance medical well be required. He just needs to prove that he has indeed been cured do that he is eligible for a standard medical. Special issuance medicals are for those special situations where people don't meet the medical standards, but the FAA determines that they may still fly with an equivalent level of safety. –  Lnafziger Jun 18 at 11:38
    
@Lnafziger True - if you can demonstrate to the FAA's satisfaction that you no longer have the condition that would require special issuance you can just get a "regular" medical. I'm not sure what's involved in that regard for psychiatric issues - e.g. if you had kidney stones I know you can demonstrate that you are "stone free" with an X-Ray, presumably you'd need some kind of equivalent diagnostic result from a psychologist/psychiatrist to be "mental-illness free" (whatever that means - aren't all pilots a little crazy?) –  voretaq7 Jun 18 at 16:09

Never lie on the medical forms. It can only come back go bite you after you have spent thousands on your certificates.

You need the advice of a specialist in difficult aviation medical certifications. Some may disagree, but in my mind the very best is Doctor Bruce Chien, Peoria IL. See the following web page: http://home.comcast.net/~bbchien/site/

Do exactly as he says.

You may want to browse the Medical Matters forum on the AOPA website, www.aopa.org to get a flavor of what he does and how many he has helped. If anyone can guide you to a successful medical certification, it is Dr. Bruce.

Recall, however, that unfortunately not everyone is eligible. If your case is other than routine (and it sounds like yours is) DO NOT SEEK a medical certification without his assistance. You said you are seeking a psych evaluation. Did you know that the report must contain certain magic phrases? That certain MDs are held in higher respect by the FAA? Your case needs a strong advocate....

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You might want to look into the Sport Pilot certificate. There are more restrictions on flying than with a Private certificate, but at least you can fly. You do not need to get an FAA medical certificate, although there are some caveats. Your descriptions indicates that you'd qualify. You must have a valid U.S. driver's license. FAA has a great brochure on the program that does not read like your typical gov't snooze-fest. Search for "sport pilot" and you'll easily find it. FWIW - I hold a private pilot certificate and have been most recently flying under sport pilot rules without a medical.

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