Military Pilots and PTSD

On the medical certification form called the MedXpress (also called FAA Form 8500-8), a pilot applying for either a new or renewed medication certificate is asked this question on 18.y:

HAVE YOU EVER IN YOUR LIFE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH, HAD, OR DO YOU PRESENTLY HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

18.y Medical Disability Benefits

You must answer yes to this question if you receive, or at any time in the past have received, a service-connected disability rating by the VA.

Some people have incorrectly interpreted this question to apply only if the disability was attributed to a physical ailment or condition. That is NOT CORRECT. A service-connected disability, whether for PTSD, Chronic Adjustment Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, or any other mental health condition requires an answer of “Yes” to question 18.y.

Please understand that answering question 18.y as “Yes” will not bar you from flying. Answering yes may not even require you to have a psychiatric evaluation, but you can anticipate that the FAA will ask for more information about your case and application.

My short summary is that:

a) a service-connected disability is an ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION about past symptoms that occurred because of, or during, military service;

b) eligibility for FAA certification is a REGULATORY DECISION that considers the past history of all medical disorders, but bases its determination on how the pilot’s current status conforms, or does not conform, to published aviation standards for airworthiness of the pilot;

c) you do not have to surrender a disability payment to be eligible for an FAA medical certificate.

How should you prepare for an aviation psychiatric evaluation if you answer question 18.y as “Yes” and the FAA has required an examination?

The psychiatrist will want to review, at a minimum:

  • your FAA medical record
  • your ENTIRE military medical record
  • your ENTIRE VA file
  • all counseling records if they occurred off-post or as a civilian
  • all psychiatric records (off-post and civilian)

For help on how to request your VA medical file, click this sentence.

For a guide on how to fill out the MedXPress, click this sentence.