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Lawmakers Urge FAA To Ease Path to Mental Health Care

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U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and aviation subcommittee members urged FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker to take “decisive actions” that would encourage aviation professionals to seek mental healthcare. “We are concerned about the FAA’s approach to ensuring aviation professionals can obtain mental healthcare in a timely and efficient manner,” the lawmakers said in a joint letter sent last week. “It is clear to us that talented aviation professionals—our… (www.ainonline.com) More...

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tedawood
Ted Wood 8
I think this recent focus by the FAA on mental health is impacting my goals to being a pilot. I have been trying to get my 3rd class medical since April 2023. The most recent demand by the FAA is a psychological and psychiatric evaluation. These will cost me between $4500 and $5000 to get, and who knows what they will ask for next. I am starting to think it's not worth it anymore.
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 3
I had no idea. Is there a requirement also for those who build their own aircraft or fly experimentals? What about heavy drones?
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 4
The FAA doesn't make distinctions of why you need a class I, II or III. If you need one of those certificates for any reason, you have to go through the same protocols. I had a patient who flew heavy drones with depression and it was the same process as if they flew for a commercial airline
SteveTarr
Steve Tarr 5
There is no easy answer when you consider thousands of daily flights with few issues then consider the Horizon stolen plane (by a non-pilot) and the Alaska jump seat pilot incidents. Any policy will prove both right and wrong, depending on the situation. Tough job.

(As with every social issue, the balancing act is hard. Opinions without responsibility or accountability are plenty.)
RECOR10
RECOR10 -1
The answer for the lemmings is laws that do more harm than good. A great example (and not many will agree UNLESS they think of the whole picture) is the DUI Laws. They take a crime that could be a terrible thing (and at times are)...and in doing so have destroyed thousands more lives such as housewives who had a glass of wine...on and on and on. They can not validate a single life being saved by DUI laws...but, they keep making them more strict, more costly, and more destructive. (note: no, I nor my family have never been arrested for DUI).
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
does the "whole picture" include a different planet than this one?
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
DUI laws have not saved a single life. Not one. They have ruined many. If we could "turn in" the cops that I have seen firsthand on the job drunk or high (one cop OD'ed three times in one month in our ED on drugs he stole from "Criminals"). MADD caused the laws. Fact is, MANY things are and always have been far more deadly than drunk drivers and the scare tactic laws behind them. Then again, you have to be able to handle some critical thinking to comprehend such realities.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 2
I'll take that as a yes.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
Easier solution is to have the Govt mandate governors on all cars and allow police to shut down any car on a public road at any time for "investigation", think of all of the lives we could save.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
Then why don't we just ban all cars and trucks then because that would be even blah blah, blah blah blah.

You say DUI laws have not saved a single life. I say every single life lost due to somebody driving drunk would have been saved if that particular drunk was in jail rather than out driving. Prove me wrong. Well will you look at that, we are both right.

Cops, good or bad, overdosing or not, are a separate and unrelated issue. MADD is a separate issue. Other things causing more deaths is a separate issue. Also the housewife had a choice, unlike the person she might have plowed into had she not been caught so tough shit for her.

You are supremely self confident and full to the brim with false equivalence. What a great combination.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
If that is the case. why are there more DUI arrests than ever before? Why are there police departments that get 60%+ of their budgets on DUI? Why are bars allowed to have parking lots?

See, I work on the other end of the scene (in the medical facilities). DUI laws have done NOTHING to lower crashes. Now, even worse, people who smoke weed and drive or CBD and drive. Heck you can take your blood pressure med and fail a field sobriety test. We have had DOZENS of "in custody" people who are are in our facility who with our BAC are .002 and the police just changed it to driving while "impaired" - and, in general folks will lose their jobs, cars, freedom, savings accounts and on and on and on - and there is NO VICTIM. Fact is, the DUI laws do nothing but empower criminally corrupt police to terrorize the public.

As a note, I never, never not EVER let the local or county police in any treatment area. We do allow State, DOC, and our facilities' own armed guards into care areas. Heck, the city cops think they can do what they want where they want. The cops we see on opiods are OUTLANDISH and most of them will claim a TUE for the fact that can not pass a freaking drug test. It is funny to see the look on their faces when we tell them point blank that they are not going to be with our patient, in custody or not, they are not welcome into treatment areas.

You are FAR out of your league here. See, we play all the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men....laws or no laws....yep, the number of people has not changed that need to be put back together again.


Now...so, I saw a few Chinook flying around today with four Blackhawks...not normal for here.....
jbsimms
James Simms 4
My concern would be; yes, make it easier to seek Mental Healthcare; but what safeguards would be in place to protect the individual from retribution from their employer?

I can see instances where companies bypass safeguards to penalize individuals who sought help by denying a promotion or other advancements, or other career progression.

Same problem exists in the military. There was al kinds of help made available for troops deploying to & from the Middle East, but peer pressure made seeking help not in the soldiers best interest career wise.
RECOR10
RECOR10 5
I can offer a SOLID answer for you...first, there is the scam that is HIPAA (your medical privacy). This in some delusional theory protects your information, well, until someone, anyone from the Govt. would like to see the information.

Say you are at the pointy end of the plane, you got a good job, you got insurance and you go to a "therapist". Your visit (if you use insurance) will then put out a code (90832-90838) for your psychotherapy appointment. Your insurance companies invoices are then able to be seen by your group administrator (HR at your work) and they can then do as they wish....

Or, you get a provider who is on a mission. I work with a TON (over 100 folks in mental health care from MD, ARPN, and on and on. Most of them are insane themselves. One of them all of a sudden thinks there is a perceived threat and the next thing you know you get 72 hours with Dr. Baker (Baker Act in many states). Suddenly they get some hero complex and need to "save us" by turning on you (or whom ever). This can mean everything from losing a drivers license, gun permit to a pilots license and passport (I have seen each scenario in real time live).


The more Govt intrude on our personal healthcare, the more they know - the more they control (and they want control). No human is above a crisis and having it affect something. Shame that frequently our "help" does far more damage than good (due to theoretic ideas of morality or laws).
RainbowRiver
Phil Nolden 2
I began flying at 14 years of age with an instructor in the back seat of a J-3 Cub. Over the decades I flew in private, military, corporate, and airline aviation... including Viet Nam. The flight surgeon is always a potential impediment to your career. Just find a good AME, be honest, and stick with him/her if possible. If you're always shopping around, your journey will be more difficult.
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 2
The sad fact of the matter is that some mental health conditions must preclude a person from being in a safety-related position such as a pilot, a bus driver, a cruise line captain, a cop, a doctor etc.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 8
Family med doc here. There's been a lot done in medicine to help destigmatize mental illness and encourage physicians and other mental health professionals to get help when they need without worries about losing their jobs. I'd much rather have my physician or pilot on appropriate meds and getting treatment than having them avoid getting treatment because they are worried about losing their jobs. https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/state-medical-licensing-boards-practices-may-hurt-physician-mental-health
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 5
I'll also add an an AME. It amazes me that it's easier for me to clear a pilot who has had a DUI than it is to clear a pilot with depression
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 2
I remember when one of FAA’s own Administrators was pulled over for what appeared to be driving under the influence but he was never convicted. He was a pilot as well.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 2
Those are the pilots that worry me. If people are talking that anybody with any history of mental illness should never fly a plane, I'd argue we should have a similar no tolerance policy for DUIs
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 1
I’d rather have that too, but until the treatment is known to be safe and effective, I’d rather the employee be working in a non-safety related position. If the treatment works then by all means return them to full duty.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
As you must be aware, it is tough being a Mandated Reporter. Frequently we opt to "look the other way" in particular situations as there simply is no good answer. God forbid you or I give CPR in public as we do not have Qualified Immunity or Good Samaritan. Damned if we do, damned if we dont - I have been working in mental health for a few years (our providers offer services to incarcerated, ALF, SNF and the such). I know for me, if everytime a "What if" came up day to day, not a human alive would not be in on a 72hr.

Shameful that people who do ask for help in understanding are labeled and black listed...then again, in some states if a medical professional calls a male a male they are labeled and black listed....I Can assure you, if you do a Pap on a male PT the results will be crappy....
gomedoc
Jon Schwartz 4
so the question is why is tech left pushing this???
gomedoc
Jon Schwartz 4
the left not tech left.....
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 3
I am not exactly sure, but I think that the tenants of DEI are embedded in there somewhere. And a lack of a strong and vibrant safety culture.
gomedoc
Jon Schwartz 4
Equity is the enemy of meritocracy...
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 1
Right you are. It's a very, very difficult thing for management to pull the credentials, even temporarily, of a pilot or an air traffic controller who has mental health issues that, if left unresolved, could lead to an accident. Some conditions may never be resolvable and removal to other non-safety related position may be the only answer.
skyboy1956
Marty Mayes 1
What did you report in your medical history that triggered this requirement?
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 1
Twelve to fifteen years ago , if my memory serves me, the FAA started a program with controllers that eventually made it into the Airway Facilities maintenance staff, regarding self-reporting of errors made by the individual where the negative ramification to the person committing the error would be less if the self report was filed before the error was found out via other means. The intent was to make it easier to identify issues and apply corrective actions such as additional training, recertification, etc. before a major incident occurred.

I wonder if those programs are still in place and how effective they actually were in improving safety?
Bayouflier
Bayouflier 0
No one is trying to prevent "healthy aviation professionals from having the ability to work". The focus should be on preventing nut cases from getting their hands on a yoke. Virtue signaling can be very dangerous when it comes to the subject of mental health in the aviation community.
dkurath
Dustin Kurath 8
They aren't trying to prevent healthy people from working, but that is what is happening and the FAA is trying to fix it. Anyone who is a pilot who hits a rough patch in life is forced to choose between 6-12 months of no income and 8 grand worth of neuropsychological and psychiatric testing to MAYBE be able to get their job back. Why do you think less than 1% of pilots report taking SSRI's when 15% of the overall population takes these same medications? Bus drivers, train engineers, surgeons, and other people who are in safety critical positions who have peoples lives dependent on their fitness and decision making capabilities don't have to deal with this crap, why should pilots?
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 1
Dustin- Agree 100%. As an AME, the hoops pilots on approved SSRIs have to go through to fly is insane. It is better than it used to be prior to the FAA approving the 4 SSRIs but it could be so much better
dkurath
Dustin Kurath 2
The approved SSRI's are a good start, and the FAA recently dropped the annual recurrent NP testing requirement for pilots taking SSRI's, so IMHO Sue Northrup and the rest of the CAMI team is making a good headway on this issue, more than most pilots realize, however the initial NP and psych eval after months of unemployment are still a huge barrier to seeking treatment completely unique to pilots. Having a CACI sheet for some of these things, even if required to be done by a HIMS AME, would still be a big step in the right direction. I would agree with a waiting period of some type while starting SSRI's and a follow up with AME prior to return to duty, but it needs to be reasonable and not create an undue burden on the airman, otherwise there won't be any takers and no meaningful change will occur. The other big problem is that mental health care providers are generally required to make a diagnosis to be reimbursed by insurance, and thus may do so even when it isn't necessarily warranted. This is why to a pilot, talking to a therapist or a psychiatrist is like walking across an overgrown cow pasture. Even with the advances that CAMI has made and continues to make, a pilot receiving mental health treatment that is unfamiliar with the DSM and what the FAA considers to be special issuance-able and what they do not can very easily step in sh*t and end their career, even if they in reality do not have a dangerous mental health problem. This is the real root of the problem that needs to be addressed.
paultrubits
paul trubits 3
Well said. Preacher(remember Preacher?) was Type I diabetic and was not allowed to fly for pay. Forcing non-medical professionals to make these type of decisions is a flawed system at best. We need to continue to review our processes to make sure that our rights as a society do not eclipse our rights as individuals.
paultrubits
paul trubits 2
Well said. Preacher(remember Preacher?) was Type I diabetic and was not allowed to fly for pay. Forcing non-medical professionals to make these type of decisions is a flawed system at best. We need to continue to review our processes to make sure that our rights as a society do not eclipse our rights as individuals.
wd73383
WD Rseven 1
If the government is involved in it, it will be screwed up royally.
jhakunti
jhakunti 1
When it comes to DEI everyone wants the most qualified pilot. When it comes to suicidal pilots, people want the FAA to relax the rules? You people are crazy. If you're suicidal you are not qualified to be a pilot.
gomedoc
Jon Schwartz 1
tells you about the suicidal nature of the FAA and DEI?
jhakunti
jhakunti 1
Lol, what? what does that mean? I understand DEI exists as a rejection of past hiring practices when black skin was a disqualifier.
avionik99
avionik99 2
During the 80's and the days of Affirmative action that took care of all that disqualifier stuff. We have not had those practices you speak of in many many years. DEI is just a method of hiring unqualified workers based on that same skin color in exchange for votes to a certain political party.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 2
I've seen a lot of good from DEI policies with every organization I've worked with in the past few years. In medicine, the hires have all been incredibly qualified people who in the past would be overlooked.
jhakunti
jhakunti 1
yes, typically, black people have to be exceptional or near perfect to be considered in the same group with their white counterparts. so yes most minorities when found in the professional workplace are highly qualified.
RECOR10
RECOR10 -2
FALSE. That said, best neurosurgeon I ever worked with is black (S. African trained). His wife almost went to jail in the 90s for 'fraud' as she had "African American" checked on some form (She was born in Africa and is a US Citizen). She is white...so, fraud, right (only in the US is African a -color-). DEI is DESTROYING medicine and so many other professions. We do not care one iota what color you are, you either have the skills or you dont. Period.

The real same, the black neurosurgeon. In general if someone is going to want another doctor based on color, it is blacks.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 2
DEI is not destroying medicine. Our medical community is better off having more diversity and hearing from people other than white males. It's actually sad when I hear the stories of what some of my colleagues have to go through. They've taken all the same tests I have, and met the same standards, yet they don't get the same respect that I do because I just happened to be born a white male.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
False, False and tests mean nothing. I knmow hundreds of doctors who can "pass tests" that I would not allow to perform a procedure on any of my friends or family.

We both know the joke about the person who graduated last in medical school, right? To that, more and more the DEI hires are in general trained in the Caribbean or other nations where the skill sets are certainly not to the level of as much as FACS...they can of course get a job in a rural facility without an issue.

If you want to play the victim card, have at it. DEI is by definition racist and LOWERS standards.
jhakunti
jhakunti 1
Your argument is predicated on the assumption that black people cannot have the skill. Nonetheless the same people who pretend they want the most qualified pilot are the same people who have no problem with demanding that the FAA relax rules for suicidal or mentally unfit to fly people. Hypocrisy and racism coming in one breath. You don't care about skills otherwise you'd see the 98% white male flight deck as the result of race based hiring. But in the end of the day the argument is moot. DEI is hiring based on skill not color. If you can't see that then it's because you are losing the privilege of being selected based primarily on your color which white men have benefitted the most from race based hiring in the USA. Let's change it to meritocracy and see how quickly the diversity becomes a natural fact because truth is you don't have to be a white male to be the most qualified because they no longer is codified in the law. Get over your pride.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
No, that is the thing, the one does not get the other skin tone has no bearing whatsoever on mental capacity. The mental capacity has to be looked at blindly, the skin color can not be taken into consideration. If someone is the "most sane" black person or woman or trans....well, we are in a terrible situation as compared to just getting sane people.

As a note, in general, we do not hire office staff who are people of color as in my experience the majority at some point will play the victim card and cause undue drama. Not good for any business. This is not the scenario with medical providers as I currently employ over 60% of our medical staff who are official "minorities". Believe it or not, specifically in mental health.

I do promise you, that a black MD from the US has a very different mindset than a black MD from Europe. Europe has not spent decades trying to prove to them that we are limiting them and their futures as a society. The democrats and liberal left in the US Strive on the victim mentality (and thus, we closed our facilities in blue states and moved to red states, FL, TX.....)
jhakunti
jhakunti 1
Thank you for clarifying. When you coherently state your case it actually is aviable argument that I can listen to and consider. And frankly I have to somewhat agree with you. I'll leave it at that.
avionik99
avionik99 -9
Sure wish they would be more concerned about the mental health of the guy piloting the U.S. from the cockpit of the White House!!
cmuncy
Chris Muncy 8
Go somewhere else if you are going to post this kind of crap. Not needed here on FA.
linbb
linbb -4
OHHHH my goodness hit a demo nerve I see sorry but his leadership or lack there of has lead to many problems now. His choice of Transportaion leadership has caused problems due to his lack of knowledge
concerning the FAA.
Nooge
Nooge 0
I bet that$350 Million dollar fraud verdict hit a nerve
dkenna
dkenna -5
Is that so?? Care to back any of that garbage up with sources? Or do you just like to regurgitate misinformation and nonsense you heard on whatever right wing “news” network you watch? Is Biden the best choice? Probably not, but given our choices, I’ll take the guy who isn’t trying to destroy democracy and be “dictator for a day”.
SamNegrete
Sam Negrete 4
The original post was without political bias. Would appreciate if we keep it aviation related. Thanks everyone for keeping that way and it polite!
RECOR10
RECOR10 3
Seems people do not know what the "F" in FAA stands for.....
dkenna
dkenna 3
Sam, the article concerns Lawmakers and the FAA. Of course there is going to be political discussion!
dkenna
dkenna 1
Well, this is still aviation related. This is a forum for discussion and Linbb mentioned the FAA. Expanding upon the original post is the point. I may not agree, but I am still open to discussing things or learning from opposing viewpoints.
Nooge
Nooge 1
I’ll take the guy who isn’t trying to destroy democracy and be “dictator for a day”

Who will be selling a Boeing 757-200 is registered in the United States as N757AF (ICAO hexadecimal AA3410 to pay that $350 M fraud judgement
Nooge
Nooge 0
Speaking of mental health ...there is no cure for BDS
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer -1
Sure there is. Elect the other guy.
Nooge
Nooge 1
Joe

I am a conservative not a conned servative like you
yr2012
matt jensen 0
Let's start with age restrictions on the guys supposed to be interested in everyone's safety. IF 70 is the upper limit for retiremenrt for most people, it should be across the board . Maybe then there wouldn't be a mental healt issue
DaveRK
DaveRK 0
While I no longer have a dog in this race, I do have a comment.
Mental Health Care is important, but too often the person needing help believes the problem is everyone around them, never them. And as often, they are very good at hiding it.
Eventually she was diagnosed, but simply refused to want, seek and get help. After almost a year of counseling, no progress. After I was awarded custody it was the judge's fault.
jhakunti
jhakunti -2
No, leave it as it is. It ain't broke don't fix it. We haven't had a suicidal airline pilot yet, just a drugged up on mushrooms one. Why allow someone who would end it all on a bad day to take a plane full of people? If your depression is pressing enough to seek help then you aren't fit to fly. If flying or the prospect of flying doesn't get you out your funk you don't need to be in the sky.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 5
We have people in every other profession getting treatment for depression and continuing with their careers. I'm a family doc/AME. I take care of lawyers, physicans, professors, bus drivers, and people is many other professions who get treated for mental illness and are completely functional. I'd rather have my pilot get help and be on treatment than not report it and be untreated.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
Seriously though, the ones I have a hard time with is police. We have had one cop OD three times in one month (in our ED). While I did move from that city (state)...I am certain he is still "on the job". Some time ago I posed a question to a cop, the next day that same cop wrote me a ticket for not using my blinker pulling into the hospital.
jkeifer3
Joe Keifer 2
Watch a couple of episodes of Air Disasters. There are, indeed, instances of suicidal pilots crashing planes.
byoungblood
Bart Youngblood 2
You have countless individuals who at some time in their past hit a rough patch in their life, got diagnosed with depression due to their circumstances, and now, so far as the FAA is concerned, has a permanent black spot on their medical history.

It is akin to the people who got diagnosed with ADHD when they were 10 years old, got put on Ritalin for a couple of years and have been fine since. They go to try to get a medical and now get to play 20 questions from the flight surgeon and spend thousands to prove that they don't (and likely never did) have something 10 years ago.
jhakunti
jhakunti -3
Rightfully so. Anyone with a history of mental illness does not need to command any craft carrying tens or hundreds of lives.
BradStewart
Brad Stewart 5
It's not just people with a 'mental illness', it's about the pilot who's wife left while he's away from home half the month including holidays, it's the pilot whose mom died, the pilot whose kid is failing school, and can't even talk to a therapist for support without fear of risking their career. Shouldn't these people be able to get help, even if temporary?
jhakunti
jhakunti 2
no, they should not. i dont want to die on a plane like the Germanwings suicidal pilot.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 1
Would you rather have your pilot being treated for depression or would you rather have them hiding their problem and not getting treatment because they risk losing their job. Think of depression like any other medical illness- I'd be OK with pilot with diabetes or high blood pressure flying my plane but only if their medical condition is under control.
avpiv711
Andy Pasternak 4
I would disagree with you 100%. I know plenty of highly functioning people whose hold other's lives in their hands who get treated for depression and anxiety and are doing great.
jhakunti
jhakunti 0
None are flying a jet 200mph 50 get off the ground.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
Define "anyone with a history of mental illness".

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