When you take a flight, your life is in the hands of the pilot. For this reason, pilots are held to a high standard: many physical and mental health issues can cause them to lose their pilot’s license. The downside of this is some pilots may avoid seeking mental health support because they’re afraid of losing their income. Loss of license disability insurance for pilots can help protect both pilots and passengers.
A Mental Health Crisis in the Sky
A mental health crisis can be a frightening situation under normal circumstances. When you’re trapped in a plane more than 30,000 feet above the ground, it’s petrifying.
According to AP News, an off-duty pilot riding in an extra cockpit seat tried to turn off the engines midflight. Just before doing so, he said, “I’m not OK.” Luckily, the pilot did not succeed in crashing the plane, but he has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
According to CNN, the pilot said he’d been depressed for a long time. Before the incident, he hadn’t slept in 40 hours and had recently experimented with psychedelic mushrooms. That’s worrisome, but what’s even more troubling is he’s unlikely to be the only pilot suffering serious mental health problems in silence. Pilots are required to self-disclose mental disorders during regular medical exams, but since an admission of depression can cause a denial of the medical certificates pilots need to maintain their licensing, many stay quiet.
Many Pilots Experience Mental Health Issues
Mental illness is common. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health says approximately one in five U.S. adults lives with mental illness of some type, including anxiety and depression. Whereas some individuals may never succeed in obtaining a pilot’s license as a result of their history of mental illness, others may be able to secure their license by keeping quiet about their struggles.
Pilots may also develop mental health issues later in life. Whereas a lifestyle of constant travel may sound fantastic to some people, it can be difficult for pilots with families. Plus, being a pilot can be stressful, which may contribute to mental health issues.
Research published in Environmental Health found that 12.6% of pilots are suffering from depression and 4.1% have had suicidal thoughts. The study concluded that hundreds of pilots are flying while suffering from depressive symptoms. However, their options are limited if they’re worried about the impact that seeking treatment would have on their careers.
The Role of Disability Insurance for Pilots
Some pilots may keep quiet about mental health issues because they love flying and don’t want to stop. However, the main concern for many pilots dealing with depression and other mental health issues may be the loss of income. If they lose their license, they can’t earn money. How will they provide for themselves and their families?
Disability insurance can provide the financial safety net pilots need to seek mental health support.
The Social Security Administration has a strict definition of disability. To qualify for benefits, a person must have a mental or physical disability that prevents him or her from engaging in any type of substantial gainful activity. For many pilots, this isn’t enough. A pilot may be deemed unfit to fly but (in accordance with the SSA definition of disability) still able to work in other industries. Taking a different job would almost certainly require a massive pay cut, meaning pilots may be unable to maintain their lifestyles or pay off their student loans.
Individual disability insurance often offers more flexible definitions of disability, providing pilots with the coverage they need.
Disability Insurance with Loss of License Coverage
When selling disability insurance for pilots, there are two key things insurance agents need to consider:
- Some disability insurance companies won’t cover pilots. The carriers you normally use may not have policies for pilots, but there are options available.
- Pilots need disability insurance terms designed for the unique requirements of their field. Specifically, pilots should look for disability insurance with loss of license coverage. This allows them to collect monthly disability benefits if a mental or physical health condition causes them to lose their license, even if the condition would not be considered disabling in other industries.
If you have a client who is a pilot, contact us. We offer loss of license disability insurance, designed to provide permanent and temporary loss of license coverage to pilots. Learn more about disability insurance for pilots.