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The letter will often state “we are unable to establish your eligibility to hold an airmen medical certificate at this time.” They also include specific requests for medical records, tests, or other information to determine whether to approve or deny the application. In the case of an airman who already holds a medical certificate, the determination would be whether to refer a case to FAA legal counsel for possible suspension or revocation of that certificate if the FAA establishes that the airman is not medically qualified.
Generally speaking, the FAA has broad authority under 14 CFR § 67.413 to request additional medical information or history to determine whether a pilot meets the standards required to hold a medical certificate. Pilots are typically conscientious about responding to such requests within the 60-day deadline. Sometimes the FAA’s request letter will include information about anticipated delays such as “it can take up to 10 business days to receive and scan reports into our system for review.” However, we recently have seen delays of up to 30 days for the Medical Certification Division to process mail.
It appears this has led to some seemingly unnecessary outcomes. AOPA’s Legal Services Plan has worked with pilots who have submitted all of the requested information by the deadline, only to receive a letter stating that the case has been referred for consideration of legal enforcement. On at least one occasion, the pilot had proof of delivery by the deadline, but the FAA initiated a legal enforcement action in the form of an Emergency Order of Suspension pending compliance with the FAA’s request for information. Evidently the office wasn’t aware that the request had been complied with because the responsive documents had not yet been scanned into the system.
Keeping detailed records, including proof of mailing and delivery, is of critical importance in resolving such an issue. For detailed information on best practices for corresponding with the FAA medical group, see the recent article “Record Keeping and Record Sending” by Gary Crump, AOPA’s Director of Medical Certification.