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FAA Mental Health Evaluations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has specific requirements and guidelines for psychiatric clearance for individuals seeking medical certification to work as pilots, air traffic controllers, or in other aviation-related roles. These requirements ensure that individuals are mentally fit to perform their duties safely and effectively. If you're an aspiring or current pilot, air traffic controller, or aviation professional, and you have any mental health concerns or conditions in the past or at present, it's important to seek guidance from experts to ensure a successful application.

What are the most common reasons applicants are denied FAA licensure for any mental health concerns?

Certain aspects of mental health conditions, if not clearly addressed and well-managed, can lead to FAA license denial.

  1. Disqualifying Conditions: The FAA maintains a list of disqualifying psychiatric conditions that may prevent an individual from obtaining or maintaining medical certification. Conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, substance abuse, and certain personality disorders may raise concerns about aviation safety.

  2. Treatment and Stability: The FAA considers whether an individual's psychiatric condition is under effective treatment, and whether the treatment is stable and well-managed. Individuals with mental health conditions that are not adequately controlled or stable may be denied medical certification.

  3. Medication: The FAA evaluates the impact of any medications an individual is taking to manage a psychiatric condition. Some medications may be disqualifying due to their potential side effects, while others might be acceptable if they don't adversely affect cognitive or motor skills.

  4. Evaluation: Lack of a comprehensive evaluation by an aviation psychiatrist or a mental health professional with expertise in aviation-related issues may delay FAA licensure.

What is an aviation psychiatrist?

An aviation psychiatrist is a doctor who is knowledgeable in FAA guidelines and be either a general psychiatrist with aviation expertise or a HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study)-certified psychiatrist.  Both types of experts are familiar with aviation-related mental health concerns and understand the FAA's guidelines. 

When does an individual need a HIMS-certified psychiatrist?

A HIMS certified psychiatrist is recommended for individuals with a history of, or needs ongoing treatment and monitoring for substance abuse, psychosis, or use of controlled substances such as opioids, stimulants, or benzodiazepines. For aviation personnel who are in grounded status due to past substance abuse or mental health issues, the additional guidance of a HIMS psychiatrist through the process of recovery, treatment, and rehabilitation to safely return to duty is invaluable.  These cases require close monitoring and ongoing treatment to meet the FAA's stringent requirements for regaining or maintaining medical certification.  As such they generally require 10 or more sessions over 8 to 12 months and the out-of-pocket costs range from approximately $8,000 to $10,000.

When should an individual utilize a general aviation psychiatrist?

Fortunately, the FAA does not mandate a HIMS psychiatrist for all cases and allows for less costly and more convenient alternatives.  General psychiatrists with expertise in aviation can also provide valuable care for aviation professionals, especially when mental health concerns are not directly related to substance abuse or the specific conditions listed above. Evaluations for routine cases consisting of a past or current diagnoses of mood or anxiety disorders, misdiagnoses, situational stressors that are no longer relevant, along with most medication management can be successfully completed by general psychiatrists, but only if they are comfortable with following FAA guidelines.

What type of expertise does Evolve Psychiatry offer?

Evolve Psychiatry does not participate in the HIMS program at this time, however, our clinical team consists of members from the aviation industry personally making them well-versed in necessary documentation and treatment plans according to FAA standards.

What is included in the comprehensive evaluation process?

Our comprehensive evaluation process aims to support applicants who are mentally stable to perform their aviation duties safely and effectively. Applicants seeking medical certification are typically required to provide detailed medical history, treatment records, and reports from treating mental health professionals to demonstrate their fitness for duty. The process typically includes:

  1. Initial Assessment: Discuss your medical history, mental health concerns, and aviation-related responsibilities.

  2. Clinical Evaluation: Participate in a thorough clinical assessment, which will involve interview(s), discussing about your treatment history, extenuating circumstances, and a review of your past medical records. Our office will collaborate with you and your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to gather additional information.

  3. Preliminary Discussion: Review treatment plan options, if indicated, and determine timeline for next steps.

  4. Report Writing: The psychiatrist prepares a final report that consist of a comprehensive overview of your mental health history, assessment of current mental health status and its impact on your abilities, if any, with a summary of recommendations for treatment and follow-up.

  5. Ongoing Support: Our office can easily provide all medical progress notes if your AME requests them.

What is Evolve Psychiatry's success rate with medical certification leading to licensure?

We do not participate in a case if it requires a HIMS-certified evaluation. Our team works closely with individuals and their AMEs to ensure that they have the required documentation in a timely manner for successful FAA licensure. Our experts  boast a 100% approval rate for all applicants who have chosen our service. 

How long will it take to complete the FAA evaluation?

After a patient's initial evaluation and once all required records are supplied to our practice, the approximate time to complete the comprehensive report is approximately 14 days.  Patients have the option to request an expedited report which is completed in as little as 5 days.

How much does the FAA evaluation cost?

Pricing varies depending on the complexity of the case which is determined at patient's initial consultation.  The general range of fees for the report is between $1500 to $3500. Insurance does not cover FAA evaluations so fees are an out-of-pocket paid for privately by the patient. 

How long is medical certification valid?

Clearance decisions for psychiatric conditions can vary. Some individuals may receive medical certification without any limitations, while others might receive a time-limited medical certificate subject to regular reevaluation.

Which option is better for me?

FAA has very strict regulations regarding substance abuse and complex mental health conditions. Ultimately, the choice of a psychiatrist, whether HIMS certified or not, should be based on nature and severity of the mental health challenges needing addressed, time constraints, and the financial means of the applicant. Consulting with aviation medical evaluators and considering the specific expertise required for the situation will help guide the decision-making process.

Where can I find the latest FAA guidelines?

Regulations and guidelines are always changing, so it's important to refer to the most up-to-date information on the FAA's official website or consult with an aviation medical examiner for the latest requirements.

How can I get started?

Patients are required to complete an initial consultation after which they will receive a report writing agreement and payment form. Complete your PAQ and select "FAA evaluation" as your primary reason for inquiry.

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