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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Disability Insurance

A Plot Point of Another Kind

Multiple airlines have been using mental health as a tactic to remove pilots who report safety, stand up for what's right, or just piss off the wrong person. The airline does this because they cannot fire someone for reporting safety, especially if the pilots have no performance problems. I've been writing a series of posts about this over the previous few weeks, and will be using much of this research in the next novel: Flight For Justice.  
Disability Insurance

This week I was advised by a pilot that an airline's on staff doctor falsified records of a disability, and submitted those forms to the insurance company. While the pilot has been out for three years now, having just realized those false records existed, without any idea what to do, the pilot contacted the FBI who advised that pilot to contact the FAA. Another pilot contacted the Deputy Flight Surgeon, and he told the pilot to report the doctor to the medical board. There might be a little "passing the buck" because either nobody knows what to do, or they all know what is happening and avoidance is the best strategy. Time will tell on that. 

Another pilot, from a different airline, was told that when the company pulls the pilot for any reason, that pilot can access the disability funds without being disabled. So, the pilot lined through the forms where it said disability and wrote "medical hold status", and then the pilot's doctor wrote, "No diagnosis" on the forms, confirming the pilot was fine. The pilot wrote a cover letter that began with: 

"My name is (   ) I am a pilot for (  ) and I am in a medical hold status, awaiting release back to the flight line. To ensure there is no misunderstanding, I do not have a disability, and in no way claim to have one. However, as indicated by the below email from (    )she advised to fill out the paperwork and apply for benefits, as I am in a medical hold status"

The above pilot was placed on disability insurance (which is a better option with half-pay, than no pay) for 3 months. But there is something wrong with this entire process, especially when there are people who need help for serious illnesses that are not being covered. But I digress, as did the following conversation: 

Harvey Watt Agent: "Every quarter your doctor must fill out the form that you still have the disabling condition. " 

Pilot:  "But I don't have a disabling condition. I have a first class medical, and my doctor wrote a letter stating I had no condition." 

Harvey Watt Agent:  "Okay, then your doctor needs to write a letter stating no status change."

Pilot:  "You're telling me that I have to see a doctor, to fill out a form, to verify I'm fine in order to continue my disability payments?"

Harvey Watt Agent: "Yes!"

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Disabling Condition: 

This pilot contemplated the process and decided to make another call. The pilot had filled out the forms and submitted them to the insurance company that stated no condition, supported by the pilot's doctors and the FAA. Thus, the pilot wondered how they were able to send a disability check. The pilot contacted Harvey Watt & Co. and asked the agent what condition was in the pilot's medical records, all the while expecting to hear "Medical Hold Status."  

Pilot: "Can you tell me my condition?"

Harvey Watt Agent: "Bipolar disorder."

Pilot: "But that's not what my forms stated. I filled them out. Who made that claim?"

Harvey Watt Agent: "The airline." 

Pilot: "Who specifically at the airline?" 

Harvey Watt Agent: The Airline's on staff doctor, Dr. (   )" 

Thus it appears that even though the pilot is fine, confirmed by multiple specialists, punctuated by the FAA issuing a first class medical certificate, the Airline can pull the pilot, then the Airline's doctor will send a message to the insurance company with a fraudulent and false diagnosis, and the insurance company pays the pilot. The question is: 

Why would an Insurance Company Pay 
a disability claim for a healthy pilot?

It appears that this is the same at all airlines, as they use the same insurance company: Harvey Watt & Co. Now the expense for the insurance company is limited, as there is an interesting way the airlines are coding a mental health disability, and limiting the liability for the insurance company. They categorize mental health under substance abuse. Yes...

Mental Health, in the eyes of the airlines 
is equivalent to being an alcoholic. 

I hope you get pissed about this and call the American's with Disabilities, the FAA, your local senator... whomever you call to express your grave concerns. But this is wrong on so many levels. Another issue that will find its way into Flight For Justice.

There is just another little twist. One of the pilots is collecting disability insurance from the airline per Harvey Watt without a disability, yet Harvey Watt also manages a mutual aid that the pilot has paid into with the union. However, the pilot cannot not receive benefits from the mutual aid portion, because they pilot does not have a medical issue and holds a first class medical certificate. The question has to be asked, why one, and not the other, especially since the same insurance company is behind both groups?

Back to the insurance... I am now aware of over a hundred of these events, at many different airlines. Thus, a hundred events for 2-3 years of half pay adds up to a large piece of change. Something is amiss with all this, and will be addressed in the novel too.  

What do you think the connection is? 

Why would the insurance company be complicit by paying pilots disability insurance who are perfectly fine, yet are being pulled for fictional mental health issues? 

For whomever comes up with the best, most creative, and sinister reason as to why this insurance issue is occurring will be credited in the novel for their idea, and receive an autographed hardback of Flight For Justice. If you know the truth, all the better. The airlines are funding this insurance plan, and they are pulling pilots. But why is the insurance company paying? 

Enjoy the Journey
OX Karlene 


  1. Jesus F-ing Christ. Even a squadron of the craziest of Hollywood's drunken script writers could not have come up with this level of lunacy. Yet... as you say... truth is stranger than fiction. This is just absurd. What a way to run an airline. Fraud performed at this level should be putting these people in jail, not just pulling their medical licenses.

    1. JR, I could not have said that better! Pure lunacy! And hopefully some of these people will see the inside of a cell. At the end of the day, I suspect that may be the case.

  2. Pure insanity--and certainly not on the pilot's side!!

    What seems most absurd is the blatancy of this entire act. It seems it would be relatively easy to build a strong case against such people and systems as fraud...and wow what damage it would ultimately do for the airline in question!
    At least, that's the way we'd like to think the Justice system works.

    Perhaps, in this day and age, it may be better to launch a concerted social media campaign against such tactics (I suppose similar to your own campaign here!) All it takes is one viral video, a la Dr. Dao on United.

    If these cases number in the hundreds, then perhaps it's time for a class action suit, or at the very least, a new coalition of these pilots to join forces. Because, apparently, one of the biggest travesties is that their own union seems to be looking the other way. If a union isn't formed to combat this exact type of abuse, what is it for—and what is it good for?
    Chilling post, Karlene, thank you.
    Eric Auxier

    1. Capnaux, the most interesting thing about this is, that because of the railway labor act all of this goes through the grievance process within the airline system, and because the airlines own the process they get away with it. The union should be standing up and fighting this, but they are not. Turning their backs or being complicit.. not sure, but time will tell.

      A pilot (who is in the middle of this) wrote to the National ALPA president, explained all that happened, supplied a dozen or so documents of evidence, asked for help, and copied 37 ALPA representatives, and not one person responded. ALPA National ignored the pilot's call for help. I will see if I can post that letter.

      As soon as I finish my PHD I am going to get a law degree and fix the RLA, and this Kangaroo Court process will go away.

      But, you're right, I think real change will come when this hits the news. And, it will! The time will come when the world will know what's happening.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Wonderful comments. Perhaps 8 or 10 of the 100+ abused pilots **that you know about,** may have genuine mental health issues. By the time their cases are resolved, far more likely will.
    As you and others continue to ask, "Where is APLA when do desperately needed?" Who is APLA representing, who pays them and who are they sleeping with? I hope you post those letters... These pilots are being HAD.
    (email is still broken, so anonymous remains, but you, Capt. Aux and many others know me.)

    1. Craig, Thank you so much for your comment. I was watching the news and they were talking about our soldiers that end up with mental issues because of the job... they became mentally unstable because of the experience of the military. But, then I had to wonder how this impacts a person. going through this process. I actually spoke to someone who began his fight over 20 years ago, attacked by the same doctor mentioned in one of these posts, and I believe it has impacted him. He's given his life in more ways that one.

      Another book that will come from all this, is how to save your sanity when you have been dumped into the middle of insanity.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. As An outsider of the industry I would say This is criminal.
    It is a waste of good pilots, people that are more than dedicated to their job.
    Think of the enormous amount of effort it took them during scoling and the amount of money their education and training
    Firing them for mental health reasons.
    I can hardly believe what This world is coming to with docters on the take to falsify documents.
    Docters took An oath to do the right thing and cure people.
    It's hard to believe docters are doing this, acting on behalf of the industry, making people that are completely healthy sick.
    On paper that is.
    This is criminal!

    1. An, it is criminal, but the airlines have figured out how to do it legally. You see, these pilots are not technically fired, but they are not allowed to work and are not receiving pay either. Sounds the same, doesn't it? But firing would be illegal. What they are doing now is criminal, but not illegal. Thus, we need to change the laws. The airlines have found a loop-hole to remove the pilot by paying an unethical doctor to give him what they want. I spent a great deal of time researching this yesterday and do believe that there is a fraud charge against these doctors, especially when they put their falsities in writing. Also, the chief pilots who are part of this action are in violation of FARs as it is illegal to put anything false into a medical record that is false. Thus, the fact their false statements are going into medical records or pilots, I think that could be illegal More to come! Thank you so much for your comment!
      If you have a chance, click on the links above and read the other posts.

  5. Karlene, this post is so powerful, that after some thought, I do not know where to begin to comment other than the fact that what some companies do to employees is even though not illegal (bc they know how to milk the cow right) but still, downright criminal. Laws must be changed.

    From a disability insurance point, someone other than the employee is getting a $pecial kickback for disability benefits due to the fact a company is taking their employees off the flight line and sending them to psychiatrists (who should have their medical licenses revoked and barred from practicing (psychiatric) medicine ever again) - to give out falsified diagnoses like candy because the employers want to play mind games with the employees they do not agree with or see as a threat to their brand and income and not the safety and enjoyment of the product they offer or should be offering to their passengers/customers.

    These companies will do anything to save their brands from being blemished and all the money they can to use as they see fit - which is not likely to improve the quality of their services.

    We live in the day and age of social media and passengers (as well as pilots) who know right from wrong. It will not be long until some company that will be caught with their pants all the way down like some companies have already experienced or given a taste of.

    I will say lastly, that this post has had me thinking and will continue to offer input as it comes. You have a team of support behind you. You will never be alone in this new adventure. Even though the threshold of a runway is where a journey ends, it's also where a journey takes off.

    1. Jeremy, what an incredible response. Thank you. My greatest concerns with kickbacks and payoffs with these doctors who down a healthy pilot for money, there will come a time where an mentally unhealthy pilot will have the funds to make the highest bid and buy themselves into the sky.

      Doctors must have ethical standards beyond all else, especially when our passengers are concerned. This will eventually be exposed, and unless the CEO's stand up and do the right thing to stop the action, it will not be long until they are caught with their pants down.

      I don't know if the CEOs understand that under SMS (safety management systems) they are the ultimate authority for the system and all operations, and will hold ultimate accountability to these actions as well.

      Aviation is changing and we need people who are willing to speak out for safety, without being retaliated against in this inhumane way.

      Thank you so much for your comment and your support in this effort. You are so much appreciated!


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