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Medicals from Hell
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Consists of twenty medical situations that were submitted to the FAA Medical Certification Division. My Case is # 18.

I have deleted identifying information when I deemed it appropriate.
Gene Whitt

Case 19
I am also a new pilot who has had an experience somewhat similar to yours. I got my third-class medical certificate last June. The FARs give the FAA 60 days to rescind the AME's issuance of a medical certificate. After the expiration of the 60-day period, Dr. Silberman demanded that I supply a ton of cardiovascular data on threat of cancellation of my certificate. (My application disclosed that I take medication (in minute quantities) to keep my blood pressure within safe limits.) Judging from the number of reports of pilots who have been jerked around by Aeromedical Certification, I am beginning to worry about the outcome of my case. I have undergone the tests Silberman demanded but have not yet received the results (though the technicians told me everything was normal).

Case 18
September 13, 2000
I took my Class-2 medical and recieved my Medical Certificate from my AME without having to go through OKC. I had with| me a copy of the PSA test numbers which indicated that I was 'normal'. Additionally, I had a note from my doctor stating that the probability of my death was no greater than that of the general population.
October 23, 1999

Well, (I like to start out deep) At exactly the end of three weeks I have finally heard from the FAA at OKC. Here is what A Warren S. Silberman, D.O., Manager wrote>

Dear Mr. Whitt,
We have reviewed your application for medical certification and note that you have a history of postate cancer. Before we can determine your eligibility for medical certification, we require,for our review, copies of all medical records from the hospitals, consultants, medical boards, and physician pertaining to the above.

Please submit a current status report from your attending physician to include prognosis, follow-up plan, type, dosage, frequency of use, and side effects of current medication(s), and results of current studies deemed appropriate.

Your aviation medical examiner, Dr..., stated that letters from Dr. ... and Dr. ... were attached, but we have not received them. Enclosed are forms for you to give to the hospital/docotrs in authorizing release of this information.
Use of the above reference numbers on future correspondence and/or reports will aid us in locating your file.

I didn't know how they would do it but they did. Three people witnessed the inclusion and sealing of the Fed-Ex mailer of my Medical application and two sheets from my doctors giving me a clean bill of health. Now the FAA says they didn't get them. well they got them but lost them.

Sounds sort of familiar as when one facility gives an unnecessary handoff to the next facility even though you have equested cancellation of services. A make work program for the fellows down the line.

The essential of my doctor's letters state several important points:
Dr. #1
He no longer has any significant symptoms... He appears well...Examinations are unremarkable. ...clinically free of disease with normalization of PSA.

Dr. #2
Mr. Whitt has completed definitive treatment for prostate cancer and is experiencing no adverse effects. From the urological standpoint he may resume all activites without restriction. His recent PSA is l.0 and there is no evidence of cancer progression.

Now I have to start all over. I must give the FAA clearance to have access to all my past records leading up to the final statments of my doctors, above. They will take a minimum of three weeks to send for these records. Then I get to wait an additional six weeks while all my records are reviewed (minimum).

There is something drastically wrong with the system that seems to take such a wrong-headed approach to a persons future. I feel that I, and apparently many others are, being required to work against a system engulfed in complexity just because it is possible to make simple decisions complex.

I'll bet, by the time this is over, I'll be able to post a whole new web site about the bureaucracy within the Aeromedical Certification Division.

Gene Whitt

Contacted AOPA
Phoned and was told that they could not help until after seven weeks.

Emailed AVweb
Received the following:
I can empathize with your problem. Unfortunately, depending on the type of cancer and how long ago you finished you treatments, you may not have even needed to be deferred to OKC at all.

With a cancer patient who has been out of therapy for more than three months (with certain exceptions like melanoma), and letters from your treating physician which stating you are in good health, in remission, and do not have residual effects, your AME could have called the Regional Flight Surgeon to ask for permission to issue right on the spot. If your AME was lazy, he just deferred you application leaving the work for OKC and you waiting.

As a member of the EAA's Aeromedical Council, this has been a recurrent problem we have seen from many pilots in similar situations. Even the FAA representatives representatives at Oshkosh agree it is a problem which makes more work for them also. Hopefully, with the new computer system which went on line October 1, the delays will shorten significantly.

Well, I have another episode in my adventure through FAA Medical Hell.

A week ago I mailed copies of the doctor's reports about my being clean and well after completing cancer treatments last June. These, unlike the FedEx copies were sent registered mail with return receipt requested. A week later and no receipt.

Yesterday, I made repeated calls to the Oakland FSDO in an effort to get the phone number of the Aeromedical Certification Division. No phone numbers are listed on their stationary. The FSDO has an interesting way to control
messages. The system requires that you spell the first four letters of the name of any person there before you can leave a message. If you don't know a name, there is no way you can talk to anyone. I will.try to learn the name of the recepionist l my wife permitting. After my fifth or sixth call someone picked up the phone and gave me the number I needed. Today I tried calling the FSDO again and had no trouble getting the recepionist. Shirley gave me the secret numbers that work every time any time.

After repeated efforts to get through to someone who would answer the phone, I finally began to call about two minutes before they were supposed to begin answering the phones. When their answering machine began to function I was immediately advised that all personel were busy. After ten minutes Dusty spoke to me.

Her first remark was that there was nothing she could do for me because the computers were down. Her basic response is that once a medical is under review, it will take a minimum of 30 days up to 45 days to have a medical reviewed. I pleaded for help for about ten minutes before she agreed to let me talk with her supervisor. She is one of four people who answer the phones when you want to determine the status of a medical application. These four people have a supervisor who will take on difficult cases like mine.

Dusty put me on hold and popped back every five minutes to tell me it would just take a minute. After 25 minutes Fuschia came to the phone. I gave her my case reference number as listed when they lost my first medical records. Initially, she was unable to find anything after 1998. Again I pleaded my case and she put me on hold. Twenty minutes later she came on line again.

Good news, a search of the mail room turned up my registered letter with the doctor's reports. She indicated that she would send them to review. I asked to talk to the people at review. Apparently, this is a no-no area where people do not have names, responsibility nor accountability. Fuschia said she would try to expedite my case.I can only hope.

In both Dusty's and Fuschia's remarks I got the impression that they were paddling up-stream as best they could but were being overwhelmed by the mass of paperwork. It would seem to me that the FAA would help their image and public relations by putting more money into this area of human impact and forget about giving tickets. A 24-hour operation seems merited. I wonder if it would improve things by making it a profit making free enterprise?

Gene Whitt

Nov. 3, 1999
I just called OKC at 6:05 a.m. at 6:18 Molly answered and I asked for Fushia. Not available. Molly brought up my case records and stated that the reviewer was not satisfied with the two letters from my doctors stating that I was well, with no after or side effects and ready to return to flying. Gave up at 6:25.

The reviewer is having a letter sent to me, effectively asking how cure could have happened along with a complete accounting of all related medical records. There is no way of telling when the letter will be typed and mailed. I will begin gathering all the records in anticipation that a letter will be making its five-day trip to me any day soon.

I honestly feel that the entire process is a 'make work' program for the employees of the system.

Gene Whitt

November 4, 1999
6:20 a.m. Called OKC Aeromedical Certification Division
6:32 a.m. Dusty answers and I ask to speak to Fushia. Fushia is away from her desk.
6:39 a.m. Fushia answers and I ask for email address that will give me direct contact with Silberman. is given as address.

Message sent is...
This is a test to see if direct contact is possible.

G. whitt
It will not work. I must have copied it incorrectly. Will try again via phone to get correct address.

Gene Whitt

November 5, 1999
6:11 a.m. Called OKC and got Donna. She is new on the job. I don't know if she is an additional employee or just one of the four who usually man the phones. Anyway, she explained to me that the computer system is not only down but being dismantled so that everything has to be done by hand. When she tried to use my six digit case number to locate my file she found that I should have seven digits now.

When I gave her my social security number she immediately said that I would have to talk to Fushia, her supervisor. They must have me red-lined now as a problem.

6:20 on hold for Fushia

6:27 Fushia comes on line and I tell her that what I need is direct contact with Silberman via phone or email. She is very patient to hear me out. She has seen the two letters from my doctors so I do believe she is trying to help me. Puts me on hold.

6:32 Fushia indicates that she will have my papers hand-delivered to the 'Reviewers'. Additionally, we arranged that I would get a phone call at 8:00 a.m. OKC time on Monday morning from someone. I can only hope.

November 8 1999

I am presently awaiting a phone call from your division that was supposed to come at 8:00 a.m. OKC time. Since it never came at the appointed time I am contacting you via email. To keep this brief, I am not recounting my tale of woe; instead, I include my primary doctor's statement:

"Mr. Whitt has completed definitive treatment for prostate cancer and is experiencing no adverse effects. From the urological standpoint he may resume all activities without restriction. His recent PSA is 1.0 and there is no evidence of cancer progression."

I am well into my second month of trying to get my certificate and career up and running. This is my longest period out of flying and instructing in over thirty years.

Gene Whitt
PI# 459571

November 8, 1999

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 12:50:56 -0500
From: "Warren Silberman"<>
To: <>
Subject: Re:Medical
Mr. Whitt:
Please FAX me at 405-954-3231 the medical statement from your physician.
Warren Silberman, D.O., MPH
Manager Aeromedical Certification
____________________Reply Separator____________________

Subject: Medical
Author: <>
Date: 11/08/1999 9:38 AM
I am presently awaiting a phone call from your division that was supposed to come at 8:00 a.m. OKC time. Since it never came at the appointed time I am contacting you via email. To keep this brief, I am not recounting my tale of woe; instead, I include my primary doctor's statement:

"Mr. Whitt has completed definitive treatment for prostate cancer and is experiencing no adverse effects. From the urological standpoint he may resume all activities without restriction. His recent PSA is 1.0 and there is no evidence of cancer progression."

I am well into my second month of trying to get my certificate and career up and running. This is my longest period out of flying and instructing in over thirty years.
Gene Whitt
PI# 459571
I faxed him a copy of his request along with medical statements from my two doctors at 22:52 . Now I wait

November 12
6:06 and "all agents are busy" on the FAA answering machine.
6:13 Donna answers. I give her pertinent information and am put on hold.
6:20 Donna goes to her computer and finds that the only data related to my social security number is dated 1998. I conplain about being in my second month and she tells me that some have even waited six months. Apparently there is a dual computer system. Some Agents do not get to use the new system. I ask if there is an advocate unit that will permiet me to appeal the handling of my problem. I'm put on hold.
6:27 Donna back on line to tell me that my papers have 'moved on' to the next priority. She can't (won't) tell me where or who to contact.I ask for Fushia. Fushia has left her desk. Donna says that Fushia will phone me. I say I will hold, Fushia has told me that I would be getting a phone call Monday morning of this week. I stayed by the phone all day. No call. Last week I was told that I would be getting a letter. No letter.
6:35 donna says that she must get to other callers. She doen'tknow when Fushia will return.
Guess I'll email Silberman again.

November 14, 1999
email to silberman
I called Friday to get a progress report. No one would
give me any help nor allow me talk to anyone who could help.
The Firewall works.
Did my Fax do any good? What can I do next?

Never did get an answer.

November 15, 1999
6:14 a.m. Phone message is, All agents are busy.
6:27 a.m. Dusty answers. Give her my SS number and case number.
6:30 a.m. dusty says that my papers are in 'Review' I request to talk to someone
in review. She puts me on hold.
6:39 a.m. She takes my phone number and says that she will send it to a 'Lead
Examiner. Says I should expect a phone call today. (Stayed home all day...No call.)

November 16, 1999
6:10 a.m. All agents are busy. Please Hold
6:42 a.m. Donna answers and takes my SS number. I ask to talk to someone, anyone who can tell me the status of my medical.
Donna says that my papers have been sent to File Maintenance. This is a new place that I have never heard of before. I ask to talk to someone in File Maintenance. Donna says that she can't do that. She asks me to wait a minute.
6:51 a.m. Holding
7:06 a.m. Fushia comes on line and tells me that my papers have been 'cleared.' I ask her as to the meaning of 'cleared'.
She say that this means I will get a certificate. I ask, "When? She doesn't know but thinks it will be as soon as
someone types it up. No time or date projection possible. I ask that it be faxed to me. She finds fax number in my papers and said that she would try to fax it to me by 12:00 OKC time. She couldn't understand why I didn't believe her.
7:09 a.m. Hung up.

November 16, 1999
1:23 p.m.
The fax came. And only an hour and a half later than forcast. I'm legal again.
Gene Whitt

One of several congratulatory emails...
Way to stay after 'em. This whole ordeal was so pathetic, it was almost laughable. A SitCom writer couldn't script a story with such incompetence, ineptitude, and lack of concern or caring.

Case 17
I'm sorry to hear about your medical certificate woes. Especially since I am just 3 or 4 weeks into the process.
My medical was deferred for high BP, and the presence of Horner's Syndrome, with no cause found. A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with Horner's, which is characterized by a constricted pupil in one eye, lack of sweating on the same side of face, and a slight droop to the eyelid. It can be caused by a number of things, primarily tumors or problems with the carotid artery. After xrays, MRI's, etc. last year, no cause was found.

Fast forward to late September 99. 9.8 hours of dual accumulated, CFI wants to get me soloed. Off to the AME. AME finds the high BP (news to me), and of course raises the red flag on the Horner's. During the exam he does the usual palpating of lymph nodes, etc. He tells me he feels a lump in my neck and sends me back to my regular doctor with a note detailing my high BP and the lump. He also sends my medical to OKC and tells me to start collecting my medical records for the FAA.

My regular doc puts me on meds for the BP and sends me to a specialist to check my neck. The specialists biopses the lump and sends me off for a CAT scan. Biopsy is unremarkable, CT shows a tumor in my neck. It appears to be a benign neuroma that is probably the cause for my Horner's. Surgery is scheduled for Nov 10.

I don't know how long it may take to get my medical now. I've prepared myself for the full 3 month ride. But, since I didn't know about the tumor or surgery when I applied for my medical, the FAA doesn't yet know about it, so that could put another month or so into the process. The good news is the AME caught my high BP, and noticed the lump before I did. So, in that regard it was worth the $94 for the exam. The bad news is now I can join you and others in FAA medical hell.

Case 16 
While they always ask for the releases again, isn't it the case you can just have the doctors send the reports again in advance of waiting for the FAA to get around to requesting them directly.

At least you know where the FEDEX destination is there. When Margy got her requests there was nary a phone number nor an address that would work with anything but the U.S. Postal Service enclosed with the request for documenation.

Case 15 

Gene, You have my sympathy. They did exactly the same thing to me just a couple of months back. On the plus side, they did finally manage to reunite the paperwork on their end and I didn't have to repeat all the work on my end.

The APOA web site states that medical latency is going up again and the current wait seems to be about four months.

Case 14
Really a bummer about your woes. on the theory that misery loves company, I'll tell my story. Since 1993, when i was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), I have had to include a resting ekg, and serum potassium blood test result in my applications for medicals (thanks, AOPA, who told me this up front). now, (knock on wood), the FAA has never lost these attachments.

But, one year I stupidly neglected to sign the release that allows them to check your
driving record -- you know, the one on the front of the application near the bottom.
Well, the AME didn't catch it either, and sent in the app without my signature. I got one of the letters from the FAA with a photocopy of that page saying that if I didn't
sign & return it to them within 30 days, my medical would be denied.

Well, I signed it, and sent it _certified_ mail, return receipt guaranteed. I got the return thingy, and assumed all was well. By now you have guessed it -- 60 days later got another letter saying that since I failed to send in the paper with my signature, they were denying my medical.

Fortunately for me, I was able to call them and fax a copy of the page with my signature on it. but it just goes to show how incompetent their clerical staff is.

Case 13
How long are others in this group having to wait for their 3rd class medical from the FAA? I've been waiting 5 weeks now...

Case 12
Mine took six. I have a slightly abnormal EKG. The FAA holds up medicals for almost ANYTHING abnormal. In my case there was no associated risk, but it still took six weeks. Your AME should tell you why there is any delay though.

Why did you get deferred? If there was nothing wrong with your exam, you would have walked out of the AME's office with the paperwork. Generally, the FAA manages to lose all paperwork for two weeks, and it takes two weeks to contact you to ask for more information. So in general, it takes a month from the initial exam to get a letter asking for reports from your other doctors along with release forms, then after you send those, it takes two more weeks for them to approve it (if they are going to approve it directly).

Case 11
It took 5 months for me to get a response from them... and unfortunately it was not a favorable response. It was so bad, that in a phone call to them about a month ago, I was told it would take one to two ***weeks*** just to find out the status of my file!

Case 10 
After 7 mos of student flying I come home to a message on the machine from my medical examiner. It says the FAA has been trying to contact me about a box checked on my medical application that needs more explaining. It goes on to tell me that if no reply is received with in 30 days they have no choice but to decline my application. OH...did I say it was dated July 8th, 1999? Damn it!

Not only am I pissed because I get mail from the FAA ( the letter states they can not contact me due to an incorrect address) but now I have spent several dollars on hold only to be told that the FAA computers are down and they will call me back. What the hell am I to do now?
Thanks, Jim "mad as hell"

Case 9
My deepest sympathies, Gene. I too have an autographed letter from Mr. Silberman on my desk. It has to do with a DMV matter (an expired driver's license bust) from 1986, and the dice are still rolling as I write this. I'm playing between the octopus at OKC and a tiny little village court in upstate New York in which they're digging through shoe-boxes full of paper on the top shelf in some closet.

Case 8
Good luck. I'm having similar problems - been 3 months now and still counting. The bad news (for you) is that once you do send them all of the info, that's when the waiting really begins. Sending a "send more info" letter only takes them 3 or so weeks..... When they start reviewing, it may take months. My run-around has caused me to lose almost all interest in flying. Once I do get the medical, I doubt I'll even resume my training. I hope this doesn't happen to you.

Case 7
Hi Gene,
I am sorry to here about the SNAFU. I don't think you have to start over again. I would suggest that you obtain a copy of the letters from Dr.#1 and Dr.#2. Send those copies by certified mail to the Medical Branch at Oklahoma. After you receive notification from the post-office that OKC has received and signed for the letters, give them a call to follow-up. The beaurocracy is often tough to beat, but most beaurocrats want to be helpful.

I, too, had prostate cancer (and high blood pressure) but had the appropriate letters for my AME at the time of my physical (as you had) and they were sent on to OKC. These letters that you had sound to me as if they should be sufficient for OKC to grant the Class 3 physcial.

Case 6
Please keep me posted on what you find out. I'd love to get my medical done soon. At this rate, I'll have all my dual time "done" and still lack 20 hours of solo time. Sheesh!

I've just began flying again, and went for my FAA medical exam today. The Doc made mention that he heard an unusual sound in my abdomen and that he'd have to send the certificate to the FAA with his report. He suggested that I'd likely receive it without any complications in a week or two. Anyone had experiences in this area? I know how the US government can work at times (slow as christmas) and didn't want to have to wait three months to get the damn thing back. Any suggestions?

Case 5
Just received word from AOPA that I will be receiving a notice of Final Medical Denial from the FAA. Students--take your medical exam now! I was very close to the checkride when my medical was suspended. Many have remarked how simple the 3rd class medical is, but if you have a medical history or condition that could raise eyebrows at the FAA don't waste any time getting that exam or you'll get hooked on flying like I did.

Response and Case 4
Wow. That really sucks. I don't want you to reveal anything you're uncomfortable with, but could you provide any details? That's an awful waste of time, money and effort. You have my sympathy. Don't know if you're in my area or not, but if you are I'll take you up anytime I have an open seat.

Are there any appeals or is this final? Since you're in touch with AOPA, I assume you have gotten good advice and lawyers. Really sorry to hear that. I had some concern about mine because of 2 past DUI's. I got my certificate, but I also got a letter from the FAA stating that if there were any more alcohol related problems, they would "review" my ticket. I had about 20 hours invested at that point.

Case 3
Sorry to hear this. I am about to begin the process with a slight heart condition. What I have read says I'll be able to get through it. Have you considered Soaring ? There is no medical required. Its not the same as powered flight, but flying it is. And you don't have to practice touch and go's :)

Case 2
My understanding is that the next step would be an appeal with the NTSB. I am waiting for the official letter from the FAA before I make my next move. If they leave the door open for reconsideration at some specified point in the future I may wait. Otherwise I think I will go the appeal route. A lawyer for an NTSB appeal is highly recommended and I am a little hesitant to take that step. Thus far I have only consulted with my AME and AOPA.

I won't bore you with the details except to say that my AME was so confident that at the time of my original exam I was issued my medical on the spot! Additionally, the FAA requested results from 5 tests I had for reconsideration of their denial. To the best of knowledge all of these tests results were normal! I think I have a good case.

If anybody has had an experience with an NTSB appeal, I would love to hear from you.

Case 1
The FBO where I trained very strongly suggested getting the medical out of the way before starting any flying. If you can't pass the medical, you won't be going solo.

What most people don't realize, though, is that motorgliders are in the category glider and do not require a medical to fly. The new Stemme is a good example - it is a 120kt, 2 seat, side-by-side retractable gear (taildragger) aircraft with a 5+hr range - and it's a motorglider.

It's also new and very expensive, but older model motorgliders can be purchased for about what you'd pay for an airplane. The tricky part is finding someone to instruct you in it. There are not many motorgliders in the US, and the regulations that cover required endorsements are a bit on the weird side - I can legally fly a motorglider if someone tows me to altitude in a power plane, and I can legally fly a power plane and even tow someone to altitude with one, but I can't legally take off in a motorglider under its own power. Go figure that one out.

My point is that if you still want to fly and actually go places without being dependent on the vagaries of lift and the availability of a tow plane and pilot, and just can't get your medical, purchasing a motorglider is a reasonable solution.

If you can find a local CFI to instruct you in it, you can do all your glider training in it. Otherwise, you may need to join a local glider club and learn to fly regular gliders, get your glider rating (hours flown as a power student count), then fly in a CFI to check you out in the motorglider and give you a self-launch endorsement.

You can also purchase a single-seat motorglider (Monerai, a homebuilt experimental) for under $10K.

Case 0
Had an hour to kill today at the airport. Struck up a conversation with an Apache owner who I had checked me out in a C-210 over ten years ago when he was a DC-10 Captain. He had been a fighter pilot in WWII in the South Pacific. Seems that shortly after he reached age 60 he had failed his medical due to a heart problem. He went through a triple-bypass operation by Dr. Schumway and rehabilation by several other top specialists. The Medical Certification Division proceeded to sit on his papers for a year while giving him the run-around.

Finally, in frustrated disgust he went to Oklahoma City to the office of the Medical Certification Division and requested to see the head of the department. For the rest of the day until closing time he was told that the Head of the department was unavailable. He said that he was going to sit there until they called the police and had him physically removed and that he fully intended to return the next day with the media until such time the head of the department agreed to meet with him and reviewhis papers.

A few minutes after closing time he was allowed an audience with the department head. His papers were reviewed and he was allowed to take a physical that included the treadmill test at the department the very next day. He walked out with his medical certificate. Ten years later he still must take the treadmill test and he still gets his medical.
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