In case you haven’t already heard, the FAA has changed its position with respect to pilots taking certain antidepressant medications. In the past, if a pilot were taking certain anti-depressant medications (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro) the pilot was automatically disqualified from receiving any class of medical certificate. Under the FAA’s new Policy Statement effective today, the FAA will now consider airman who are being treated for depression with one of those four antidepressant medications on a case-by-case basis for a special-issuance medical certificate.
In connection with the new Policy Statement, the FAA has also issued Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin 2010-1. The Bulletin is “intended to encourage airmen to make a complete disclosure regarding a history of or current use of antidepressant medications, the underlying condition for which the antidepressant medication was prescribed, and associated visits to health professionals so that they can be considered for special issuance medical certification under the new policy on the use of certain antidepressants.” Under the terms of Bulletin 2010-1, airman who have not disclosed this information on medical applications in the past will not be will not be subjected to enforcement actions for violations of FAR 67.403 (intentional falsification) if the airman discloses the previously undisclosed information on an application for medical certification made between April 5, 2010 and September 30, 2010.
Although the FAA’s grant of immunity is solely with respect to enforcement actions, rather than criminal prosecution for which only the Department of Justice may grant immunity, the Bulletin also states that neither the FAA nor the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General will refer cases of apparent intentional falsification covered by this Bulletin for criminal investigation or prosecution.
For any airman who suffers from depression and has been keeping his or her diagnoses and/or treatment secret, this should be great news. However, those same airmen should keep in mind that a special issuance of a medical certificate is granted at the discretion of the Federal Air Surgeon. It is likely that not all airmen who take advantage of this opportunity will be granted a special issuance. However, they will at least be able to “come out of the closet,” so to speak, and avoid future enforcement or criminal prosecution.