FAA Medical Denied Because Of Depression?

Is your FAA medical denied because of depression? Fortunately, depression is not a condition which is specifically identified by the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR Part 67) as being a disqualifying medical condition. Instead, however, the FAA has identified depression as a condition which warrants evaluation regarding its aeromedical significance for any given airmen. As is authorized by Part 67 (the body of regulations which speaks to medical certification standards), the Federal Air Surgeon can deny an airman medical certification for a history of a mental condition which either makes the airman unable to safely perform the duties or exercise the privileges of the airman certificate applied for or held; or may reasonably be expected, for the maximum duration of the airman medical certificate applied for or held, to make the person unable to perform those duties or exercise those privileges. See 14 C.F.R. Sec. 67.107(c)67.207(c), and 67.307(c). In other words, the Federal Air Surgeon can deny you a medical certificate if your history is significant for depressive symptoms which may manifest in an aeromedically significant fashion.

In our practice, we have found that the FAA’s primary concern when evaluating an individual’s history of depression is whether the individual’s case history suggests a risk for recurrence of symptoms. Typically, this assessment manifests through the FAA doctors’ review of your medical records. As you may be aware, when you report a history of depression on your medical application, the FAA’s first response is usually to request that you send all of your medical records relative to your history of depression for their review. Within that review, the FAA is typically looking at whether you have had multiple recurrences of depressive symptoms, whether you are using a disqualifying medication to treat your depressive symptoms, whether treatment has been successful in the past, and what your risk for recurrence of symptoms may be. If this assessment of your medical records (and current evaluations, if available) renders a risk for recurrence of depressive symptoms, the FAA will typically deny your application.

As with all certification matters, the element of proper presentation of evidence is relevant in cases dealing with depression. The key question is: what can you do to sufficiently satisfy the FAA’s concerns that risk is mitigated in light of your history of depression? Sometimes, the answer is consideration of treatment with a SSRI and seeking a special issuance authorization, or maybe it is appropriate to challenge whether your diagnosis of depression was accurate in the first place. No matter the approach, the FAA needs to see that risk is sufficiently mitigated, despite your medical history.

Why involve a FAA attorney in your FAA medical application? Despite what you may hear from your AME, the medical certification process is more so a legal process than a medical process. As with denials for the use of a disqualifying medication, ensuring that your doctor is developing the proper documentation regarding your discontinuation of the medication, as well as the status of your underlying condition, can be a delicate process. To that end, everything that is submitted to the FAA (i.e. records, statements, evaluations, etc.) goes into your airman medical file. This file is what the FAA then utilizes to evaluate whether you are eligible to hold a medical certificate. If you are later denied and wish to appeal that denial, your airman medical file becomes “Exhibit A” before the NTSB or upon reconsideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. So, a FAA attorney can evaluate your records, prepare a plan for best presentation of your case to the FAA, and best argue your medical eligibility to the Federal Air Surgeon, with an eye for potential, future appeal.

Is your FAA medical denied because of depression? Check out our episode “FAA Medical with Depression” on The Pilot Lawyer Podcast and call the FAA attorneys at The Ison Law Firm. We are happy to evaluate your case and discuss with you a plan for presenting your case for consideration by the Federal Air Surgeon. Aviation law is all we do. Nothing else.

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