MedXPress Take 2

Last time we looked at the first part of the FAA Form 8500-8 MedXPress application for medical certification. We’ll wander this time into the deep end of the pool to where the form gets a bit more involved and requires careful attention.

As a reminder, at the very beginning of the application, under the “Help” tab, the FAA has a detailed User Guide and Instructions for completing the application. You can open the User Guide in a different tab on your desktop to help with the application (and it’s probably best not to do MedXPress on your smartphone!).

In part 1 of the medical history section, the instructions read, “Have you ever in your life been diagnosed with, had, or do you presently have any of the following?” The question doesn’t leave much wiggle room for negotiating a response. Each of the items in Section 18 contains a “+” icon that, if clicked, will open a drop-down dialog box that provides more specific examples of what the FAA expects to be reported. Some of the items, if checked “yes,” won’t necessarily require anything other than a brief comment. For example, Item “e” asks about hay fever or allergy. For seasonal hay fever sufferers, the comment “seasonal pollen allergies” will probably be all that’s needed.

Anything else in that first group of items will probably require at least a comment from a health care provider regarding the condition or diagnosis. Remember, in the FAA’s world, everything is a potential problem until they determine it’s not, so any “yes” response in section 18 will likely need some additional documentation for the aviation medical examiner (AME) and ultimately, the FAA to review as part of the application process. Even a brief note with some clinical details will often provide your medical examiner with enough information to allow for an office issuance. A deferral of your application, that is, when the AME doesn’t issue your medical and sends it on to the FAA for review, means months of additional delay before you get a decision!

In part 2, there are four items pertaining to military service and medical-related discharges, medical rejection by military service, rejection for life or health insurance, and medical disability benefits. 18(y) warrants a timely mention as it is a concern for military veterans who are receiving disability benefits in any form.

The FAA is currently investigating with the Veterans Affairs to verify if applicants for a medical certificate are disclosing that they are receiving medical disability benefits. Unfortunately, they are finding some matches that confirm the omission of those benefits on the medical application. Keep in mind that 18(y) doesn’t specify where those benefits are coming from. Any medical disability compensations—Social Security, Veterans Affairs, or privately funded compensation—are all reportable. Also know that reporting those benefits doesn’t necessarily mean the FAA is going to reach out to you. It depends on what medical conditions you’re receiving benefits for. Percentage ratings for relatively minor things such as arthritis, low back pain, tinnitus, or carpal tunnel syndrome are not necessarily going to raise red flags, but, as noted previously, “In the FAA world, everything is a potential problem until they determine it’s not!

Behavioral health is a prevalent theme among medical applications. If those disability benefits include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychiatric diagnoses, the FAA is more likely to require additional review.

Item 18(v) is, unfortunately, a situation that our Legal and Medical Certification staffs often address. Not surprisingly, the FAA frowns upon alcohol-related motor vehicle actions and one DUI is bad enough, but if there is more than one in the driving history, it can mean a long, expensive road to a special issuance medical certificate. 18(v) includes a complex question that has several components. Our Legal Services Plan panel attorneys have covered the subject.

If you report an alcohol-related motor vehicle action, expect the FAA to ask initially for five basic pieces of information: the police arrest report, the court records associated with the charges, the BAL level if blood alcohol testing was administered, the state DMV records, and a personal statement from you regarding alcohol use habits. Depending upon many factors, the FAA may require an extensive (and expensive) evaluation before determining your eligibility to hold a medical.

When you electronically sign and submit the application through the MedXPress system and print the application form, there will be a confirmation number at the bottom of the page. When you schedule the flight physical with an aviation medical examiner, that number will be used to pull your application into the AME side of the system. The AME, after completing the exam, will either issue your medical or defer the application to the FAA for review and a decision. As was mentioned earlier, if your application is deferred, expect to wait several months before the process is completed and the FAA reaches a decision on your application.

Just take your time as you go through the process. You can save your progress if you need to gather some dates or other information to be certain you are being accurate in what you disclose. If you have any concerns about what you will be reporting, call our medical certification specialists in the Pilot Information Center so you will be getting correct information about how to continue.

Stay safe and warm! Spring is coming!

Portrait of Gary Crump, AOPA's director of medical certification with a Cessna 182 Skylane at the National Aviation Community Center.
Frederick, MD USA

Gary Crump

Gary is the Director of AOPA’s Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Section and has spent the last 32 years assisting AOPA members. He is also a former Operating Room Technician, Professional Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician, and has been a pilot since 1973.

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