FAA Neuropsychological Evaluations -
When Experience and Timeliness Matter Most.
What is an FAA mandated Neuropsychological Evaluation?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that some individuals complete neuropsychological testing to initially obtain, or in some instances to renew/maintain, their medical certification. This process begins when you are seen by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) who completes a physical and reviews your history to ensure you have no disqualifying conditions that would prevent you from being granted medical certification, which is required for most types of pilot's licences. In some instances, an airman is found to have a disqualifying condition (e.g. ADHD) and cannot be granted medical certification without additional steps being taken. In other instances, an airman who has been flying for many years may have a disqualifying medical or psychological event happen (e.g. stroke, TBI, substance abuse or dependence) and they must then complete additional steps to maintain or reacquire their previous medical certification. In many of these instances, airman are referred for neuropsychological testing to assist in determining their eligibility.
The purpose of the Neuropsychological Evaluation is to assess various aspects of cognition and social/emotional functioning to ensure that no issues are identified which might pose a risk to the safety of the airman, their passengers, or the general public. As you can imagine, this is no easy task when you consider the number of individuals who hold active airman certificates. In 2017 the FAA estimated this to be 609,306 individuals (see: Civil Airman Statistics). To maintain consistency across so many individuals, the FAA has developed regulations for what neuropsychological testing must be completed. This information is typically relayed to the airman by their AME at the time of their exam or is conveyed to the airman via letter with a required test list included. You can see an example of the ADHD test list here: ADHD Testing Requirements.
Assuming you've been notified that you will be required to complete neuropsychological testing, the obvious question is how should you select a neuropsychologist to assist you in the process? The FAA has specific requirements that a neuropsychologist must satisfy before they are considered eligible to provide such an exam, so it's important to select an individual who satisfies those requirements. If you do not, you risk having the testing rejected, resulting in the added time and expense of a second evaluation. The FAA requires that the neuropsychologist be: 1) A licensed psychologist 2) Board certified or board eligible in neuropsychology 3) Trained in the Cogscreen-AE (a computerized test used in many evaluations). Some evaluations also require that the neuropsychologist be HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) trained. Starting this year, the FAA has begun requiring individuals who are on their approved provider list to submit evidence of having met the above requirements. If the provider you are considering meets the above requirements, the next important consideration is their experience level. The FAA follows the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) in determining an airman's eligibility, so simply being a competent neuropsychologist is not enough. You must know what the FAA considers to be of aeromedical significance to perform an appropriate evaluation. This knowledge only comes through training and experience in these unique evaluations. You may be tempted to "bargain hunt" for the cheapest provider, but you are better served by talking with your AME or other providers to see who they recommend. A poor evaluation will cost you more in the long run than the few hundred dollars you are likely to save otherwise.
At Fort Wayne Neuropsychology, we take pride in both the quality and timeliness of our FAA evaluations. Dr. Jacob Lutz meets the FAA requirements for neuropsychologists and has completed both the basic and advanced HIMS training. He was the first neuropsychologist in our state to provide the CogScreen-AE testing and has developed a good relationship with numerous AMEs in this region and beyond. He has worked with everyone from captains of large commercial airlines to youth just getting started in aviation and thus has the experience you need in this important process. Appreciating the importance of these evaluations and the timelines involved, Dr. Lutz sets aside time in his general neuropsychology practice to complete these FAA evaluations as quickly as possible. You can see Dr. Lutz's bio and curriculum vitae here: Dr. Lutz. Please follow these links to learn more about completing a FAA Neuropsychological Evaluation at Fort Wayne Neuropsychology: