July 20, 2005

Pilots & Bipolar Disorder

U.S. Says 46 Pilots Lied To Obtain Their Licenses

Recently, the news has covered the case of 46 pilots who are being charged by prosecutors for "lying to federal authorities to obtain airplane licenses." This coverage is relevant to not only bipolar disorder but also to other mood or brain disorders. The pilots are being accussed of hiding "debilitating illnesses" which, if revealed would have "kept them (the pilots) grounded."

The pilots, who were indicted this week by grand juries in the eastern and northern federal districts of California, were identified during an 18-month criminal air traffic safety investigation by the Department of Transportation and the Social Security Administration that looked into licensed pilots who were also receiving disability benefits and payments from the government.The investigation, initiated in July 2003, included a review of more than 40,000 pilot licenses issued in Northern California to determine whether there had been any misuse or abuse of Social Security numbers. The authorities reviewed licenses held by both commercial and private pilots and found that some license applicants claimed to be medically fit to fly an airplane yet were simultaneously receiving disability benefits.

Charles H. Lee Jr., an assistant inspector general for investigations at the Department of Transportation, said the reviewers first focused their investigation on 48 pilots, most of whom were receiving disability payments for illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and disabling heart conditions.

This story touches on a very important issue: How often do people suffering from brain or mood disorders falsify their conditions to get hired. It is important to note that the coverage of this story does not advocate the possible behavior of the pilots. Rather, this coverage is meant to bring to attention the larger issue that this story seems to be encompassed by: employment and brain or mood disorders. That is, research has demonstrated the importance of social ties for those suffering from brain and/or mood disorders. Surely, employment is involved in this issue. Surveys reveal that people suffering from bipolar disorder still experience a large amount of social stigma because of their affliction. Further, it seems that "getting hired" is much more unlikely if you disclose suffering from a brain or mood disorder. On a positive note, some programs and employers are aiding this situation by hiring those with psychiatric disablities.

Title: "U.S. Says 46 Pilots Lied To Obtain Their Licenses" Author: Carolyn Marshall. Date: July 19, 2005. Source: http://www.nytimes.com

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