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FAA: 5,000 pilots failed to report health issues that may ground them

Pilots were receiving disability benefits for the exact conditions they were allegedly trying to conceal.
FAA: 5,000 pilots lied about health issues that could ground them
Posted at 11:36 AM, Aug 28, 2023

Federal authorities are investigating nearly 5,000 U.S. pilots who may have lied about medical issues that could prevent them from flying, according to reports. 

The pilots were suspected of falsifying medical records by failing to report — as required by law — their conditions to the Federal Aviation Administration, The Washington Post said.

The pilots in question are all military veterans, and were collecting veteran disability benefits for the very conditions they allegedly tried to conceal.

About 600 of the pilots were licensed to fly passenger planes. The others fly cargo planes or corporate clients.

Veterans Affairs investigators have been looking into this for two years after inconsistencies were discovered while cross-checking federal databases, the Washington Post said. But the details have been kept private for the most part. 

FAA spokesman Matthew Lehner confirmed in a statement to The Washington Post that the agency has been probing about 4,800 pilots "who might have submitted incorrect or false information as part of their medical applications." 

Lehner said the FAA has closed about half of those cases, and ordered about 60 pilots who "posed a clear danger to aviation safety" to cease flying until further review of their cases. 

The problem seems to be that pilots are minimizing their illnesses to the agency so they can continue operating planes, but exaggerating their illnesses to achieve maximum VA benefits, experts say.

While pilots do have to undergo medical exams, the FAA requires them to self-report certain conditions that may not be detected in a typical physical. 

Reports say the FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine has allocated $3.6 million to hire new medical staff to examine the pilots in question.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story's headline used the word "lied," which was removed to more accurately reflect that pilots instead did not report medical conditions.

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