What Is It Like To Be Put Through the Special Issuance Grinder?
By ANN Correspondent Juan Jimenez
The first sign that were was trouble
brewing surfaced when AOPA could not get the FAA to find any trace
of the package that the AME had allegedly sent to Oklahoma. Ms.
Jeanette Snyder at AOPA, bless her heart, did just about everything
possible over a period of weeks to find out what had happened to
the paperwork. As it turned out, the AME had not sent it, and had
not filed the exam information using the computerized system that
all AME's are required to use, so there was nothing to track in the
computer either. On top of that, the AME had not obtained all the
information required for the FAA to make a decision about the
special issuance. One of his nurses assured me that they had
"everything we need" but in fact, they did not. They had not even
made any attempt to contact my cardiologist and obtain the results
of the Thalium stress test that I undertook in August.
Two and a half months were wasted trying to track down
information that was never sent in the first place. After
attempting to contact the AME and getting no response to my phone
messages, I decided to send a FAX, stating in no uncertain terms
how upset I was about the whole issue, and suggesting that perhaps
the FAA would be able to find the documentation that he never
That seemed to get his attention, because the very next day I
received a phone call from his nurse. She told me that he had been
told to do nothing that day other than taking care of my medical
certificate application. I also talked to the AME, but when he
started saying things like how I had dumped this issue on him with
no warning - my desire to get my medical back, no less -- I decided
there was no point in continuing the conversation. I had in fact
contacted his nurse several times in the period between March and
August to discuss what I would have to do to get my medical
I went to the AME's office and was
met by the nurse, who had put together all the medical information
she thought was needed, and had me fill out another application for
a medical certificate. She then asked me if she should send it by
mail, and I refused - I would hand-deliver the paperwork to the
Fort Worth office of the FAA.
You would think that after all this I would start to see some
light at the end of the tunnel, no? Guess again.
When I delivered the paperwork to the FAA, Ms. Paula Harkins
looked it over and gave me a list of all the things that were
missing. That's right - on the second try the application was still
incomplete! The nurse had not requested any of the records of my
hospitalization for the placement of the stent. There was no
summary of the resolution of the pancreatitis from my family
doctor. There was no letter from my cardiologist stating an
overview of my current condition. The original traces and images
from the Thalium stress test had not been requested and
To put the icing on the cake, she then told me that even if I
had had all my paperwork in order, they could not issue a medical.
Why? My family doctor had prescribed Wellbutrin to help control my
urge to eat in order to compensate for the anxiety of not smoking.
However, the AME did not say a word to me that Wellbutrin is an
anti-depressant and an instant disqualifier for any medical
certificate. Now, you tell me - how does an AME with twenty-five
years of alleged experience miss a prescription medicine clearly
disclosed in an application, which instantly disqualifies a pilot
from holding a medical certificate?
I had to obtain a letter from my
family doctor that I was off Wellbutrin, and then get to work
getting all the paperwork together that the AME should have either
obtained himself or asked me to get prior to sending the paperwork
to the FAA. It took the records office at the local hospital over
two hours to print out all their records on my hospitalization. It
took me about half an hour to convince the cardiologist's records
clerk that I was going to take the original tracings and images of
my Thalium stress test, and no, copies would not do. Then there
were the letters of evaluation of current condition and the
resolution of previous illnesses.
All of this paperwork I dutifully hand delivered to the FAA's
building in Fort Worth over a period of weeks as I worked through
the appointments required to obtain them. Of course, I had to go
through searches of my vehicle and my person in order to do this,
but I did not mind, because I thought that this was the way to
ensure that nothing else would happen to my package. Right?
Five weeks after the last piece of paperwork requested by the
FAA was hand-delivered, I was trying to find the status of the
application. At first I was given the standard "Call us back in six
to eight weeks." I felt like I was applying for a rebate…
but I counted to ten, waited, called again a couple of weeks
later… and was told there was no record of the package
making its way to Oklahoma! The only plausible explanation I was
given was that the mail was taking a long time going through
screening for things like anthrax, which did not make sense to me.
Why would the FAA purposefully delay the transfer of the paperwork
by using the US Postal Service instead of internal mail or one of
I then asked Ms. Snyder at AOPA -- who had
already bent over backwards three different ways trying to help me
- to see if she could get an answer. To my surprise, she responded
that the FAA has now changed procedures so that AOPA can no longer
call the FAA to get a status. They now have to collect names and
FAX them over to the FAA, to be checked when someone has the time
to get to it. It took more than a week. I suppose this is one of
the new procedures the new FAA administrator has put in place to
streamline the agency. Still no answer.
A few days later I once again tried to track down my special
issuance status, so I called the FAA, and the lady told me the same
thing, that the computer showed that the region was still handling
it. I decided to call the region to see what was going on. Surely
the paperwork had been sent to Oklahoma in the first place,
That's when I blew my top.
The package was still there, in Fort
Worth, sitting on the FAA employee's desk. The employee was on
leave until the next week. The package was sitting there with a
note that I had allegedly been notified that the Thalium stress
test images of my heart were still missing - the same images I had
hand-delivered to them, along with my EKG's. I did not even go home
that day, I went to the FAA straight from the doctor's office. I
was scared to death something would happen to the originals, Murphy
would strike again, or who knows what.
I felt like choking something, anything. I could feel my blood
boiling. It took all the strength I had not to switch to Spanish
and communicate some choice phrases in my native language to the
person on the other end of the phone. No wonder nobody could find
anything… nothing had been sent!!! Again!!!