House Committee Probes Aviation Medical "Fraud"

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On Tuesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., on Tuesday released a committee oversight report that identifies "widespread fraud" among pilots who hide serious medical conditions from examining physicians to retain medical certification for their FAA pilot certificates. The report notes that "in July 2005, the DOT Inspector General found 'egregious cases' of airmen lying about debilitating medical conditions on their applications" for FAA medicals. The DOT watchdog sampled 40,000 airman's records and found more than 3,200 held current medical certificates while simultaneously receiving Social Security benefits, some for medically disabling conditions that voided their FAA medicals. Forty people were prosecuted, but the committee's oversight and investigations staff believe hundreds more could have been pursued if not for limited resources. Further, the research team found "toxicology evidence" of serious medical conditions in nearly 10 percent of all pilots involved in fatal accidents during a 10-year period, though less than 10 percent of these medical conditions were disclosed to the FAA. "Despite these findings, FAA managers argue that the problem of airmen falsifying medical applications is negligible," the report notes. Committee staff concludes that the FAA's response is unacceptable and reiterates the DOT IG's previous recommendation that the agency "coordinate with Social Security and other providers of medical disability to identify individuals whose documented medical conditions are inconsistent with sworn statements made to the FAA." The committee researchers opine that this action would create "incentive for airmen to be more forthcoming about their existing medical conditions." Per FAR 67.403, "Falsification of the airman medical application form 8500-8 may result in adverse action including fines up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 5 years and revocation of medical and all pilot certificates."