Nearly 5,000 Commercial Pilots Are Under Investigation For Hiding Health Problems

Three airline pilots in white shirts with black caps and black and white striped ties stand shoulder to shoulder in front of airport check in.
Three airline pilots in white shirts with black caps and black and white striped ties stand shoulder to shoulder in front of airport check in.

United Airlines pilots participate in a picket line during a protest at Washington Dulles International Airport May 12, 2023 in Dulles, Virginia. Ahead of a busy summer travel season, United pilots are pressing airline management for higher wages after working without an increase for over four years.

It takes a lot to be a pilot, but thousands of pilots are out there flying right now while claiming mental and physical disabilities from the government that would bar them from getting in the captain’s chair.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and Veterans Affairs are investigating around 4,800 veterans-turned-pilots for claiming benefits on disabilities that would make them ineligible to fly. Of the 4,800 pilots under investigation, half have had their files closed by the FAA, but 600 passenger aircraft pilots remain under investigation. The FAA has already ordered at least 60 pilots to stop flying while their records are reviewed. The Washington Post reports the problem comes from pilots over stating their disabilities to the VA while downplaying those same disabilities to the FAA:


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While not exactly the most honest strategy, getting everything you can out of our crooked government after you served in the armed forces seems like a smart move. Unfortunately, mental health is a common claim with the VA for benefits and the main suspect in some of the worst air travel disasters of the last two decades. While America hasn’t seen a death via passenger plane since 2009, suicidal pilots are suspected in 2015 Germanwings jet crash, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in 2014 and a crash of a Chinese plane just last year.

The FAA and VA have known the two offices need to coordinate more closely since 2005, when the Department of Transportation and the Social Security Administration uncovered the same scam of pilots claiming they were too sick to work while regularly flying. That investigation revealed 3,200 pilots in Northern California alone who were reporting themselves medically fit to fly while receiving social security benefits.

Of course, a crack down on pilots who are double dipping in terms of VA benefits and flying gigs could exacerbate the current shortage of airline pilots caused by low pay, leading to even more delays on the tarmac for already weary travelers.

The entire report is pretty scary, especially if you fly a lot (like we at Jalopnik tend to do) you can read the whole story here.

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