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Medical Denied-History of Alcohol Abuse- Reapply?
Answered By AOPA
Good Evening All,

I've been searching the web for quite awhile now and figured getting input from everyone here could certainly help. Ill keep this brief. My medical was denied in early March. Prior to covid I was looking at a career change. I went to the AME and had reported being admitted to the hospital for a heart condition in Jul 2019. I was cleared of any heart issues and released, however some of my medical records do indicate alcohol abuse. I was drinking a lot at the time. What I thought was a heart attack was after a heavy night of drinking. Again, was medically cleared with no heart issues. After I left the hospital, I put down alcohol completely. I was never directed to rehab or anything like that for this incident. I did go to rehab around 10 years ago. I do not have any alcohol legal related issues, e.g. dui etc. ever on my record. So circling back, I applied and saw the AME. He of course upon learning of this deferred my medical to OKC. I wrote exactly what I am writing here. I told them everything, rehab ten years ago, the current hospital stay. I even included current medical records from my primary care provider giving evidence of sobriety.
Of course, OKC came back and denied it. I had 60 days from the letter in late March to appeal the decision. With the covid situation I decided jumping out of my career and into aviation needed to go on hold.
Now I want to just fly for fun. I have talked with a flight school and I can fly with them without a medical license until its time for me to solo. So, I have some time here but I am wondering what to do. Should I reply for my medical and see if they deny again, then appeal that decision?
I can certainly understand the issues of a history with alcohol abuse/dependence. I’ve made sure that for the last year I have regular checkups with my PCP to include blood work. Even without flying I’ve taken sobriety seriously for my health if not anything else.
Thanks for any insight you can offer.


8 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer
Hi Steven,
If you want to pursue obtaining your 3rd class medical certificate, your next step would be to write a letter to the FAA asking them to "reconsider" the denial of your medical certificate. Be sure to include in that letter the PI# (Pilot Identification number) in the top right hand corner of your Denial letter. The 60 days noted in the FAA letter is a time frame in which the FAA closes the pilots file, however by asking them to reconsider their decision you are essentially requesting that they reopen your file. 

The FAA will respond with a letter stating what information they will need you to provide, this will include the HIMS AME evaluation. You do not need to have a new AME exam at this point.
Did the denial letter cite abuse, or dependency?

The answers are somewhat different!
The letter states substance dependence. 
Then your only way back is through full rehab.  That is defined as intensive Outpatient or residential, 4 weeks, 8 hrs/day.  It's education that they will not consider waiving in any revenue aviator certification.  And you will have to pee in the cup forever, no exceptions. 

The third class only route is to pee in the cup for two years in a private HIMS AME administered abstinence program for 2 years, do all the learning as to the structure of rehab, and do all 12 AA steps @ AA (log the meetings, min of 2 / week), and then at the end of two year convince a HIMS psychiatrist that you have mastered the difference between abstinence (in your mouth and lungs) vs Recovery, which is between your ears.

.Either way you will be monitored....for the rest of your flying days.

Understood. I thank you very much for the information. Although I've been sober for over a year now IOP or rehab is not plausible due to my current work schedule. Ill have to look into the third class route. I'd happily submit for random urinalysis anytime. Thanks again for your time. 
Steven, you can do this, but I think the AOPA response is only generically correct.  The FAA diagnosis of alcohol dependency will simply say, "find and engage a HIMS ame....." and everyone of us will tell you what I exactly what I wrote. What you want to avoid is the full appeal (beyond reconsideration). Then you get a FAS denial which is a logistical disaster to un-do, even when you have what is required.

Sorry about the poor quality of the scan.  The airman who I believe I have completely de-identified, took a pic of this with his cell. 
Note that since the basic requrement to become AOPA Staff is generally "CFI", there is not a HIMS medical specialist on staff.

Reconsideration response (alcohol).pdf