Protecting your credit is important from a general standpoint, but it is of particular importance if you hold or are trying to obtain security clearance.
When you apply for national security clearance and your application is denied, the reason for denial falls into at least one of 13 Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.
Those adjudicative guidelines categories are as follows:
- Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States
- Guideline B: Foreign Influence
- Guideline C: Foreign Preference
- Guideline D: Sexual Behavior
- Guideline E: Personal Conduct
- Guideline F: Financial Considerations
- Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption
- Guideline H: Drug Involvement
- Guideline I: Psychological Conditions
- Guideline J: Criminal Conduct
- Guideline K: Handling Protected Information
- Guideline L: Outside Activities
- Guideline M: Use of Information Technology Systems
Due to the state of the economy in the past several years, Guideline F – financial considerations – has become a stumbling block for many applicants who have completed the SF-86 security questionnaire. SF-86 is the form used by military personnel, government contractors, and government employees to apply for confidential, secret, or top-secret clearance.
The concern outlined in Guideline F is that a person’s inability to live within his/her means, pay debts and meet financial obligations can indicate a lack of judgment, self-control, or willingness to follow rules and regulations. This could raise questions about the person’s reliability, trustworthiness, and ability to protect classified information.
“An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds,” according to a 2005 memorandum for William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office.
There are other factors playing a role in people’s inability to pay their bills in recent years, John Griffith, a security clearance attorney. High unemployment rates and the predatory lending practices of some mortgage companies have resulted in people falling behind on bill payments and losing their homes to foreclosure. These events aren’t necessarily indicators of someone who will engage in illegal activities to generate funds, Griffith says.
“If you lost your job, couldn’t pay your mortgage, and wound up losing your home to foreclosure, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person who’s irresponsible with your money,” Griffith says. “We’ve pursued cases involving circumstances such as these and have been successful in attaining or restoring clients’ security clearance.”
When your security clearance is threatened, hiring an attorney who specializes in this area of the law can help prevent your livelihood from being adversely affected. Although there are military attorneys who may be available to answer questions, it is important to remember that they are government employees who don’t necessarily have a vested interest in whether you get a security clearance. A private attorney is invested in your case, Griffith says.
It is also important to note that just because you’ve had financial difficulties, this doesn’t always mean you will be denied a security clearance. If the incident – such as bankruptcy or foreclosure – happened a long time ago, or it was an isolated incident and doesn’t cast a shadow of concern on you, you’ll likely get your clearance.
Conditions that occur and are beyond your control typically aren’t held against you.
But let’s say you got into a financial bind that WAS your fault. There also are ways of preventing that from being an unfavorable mark against you. For example, if you went through consumer credit counseling after falling behind on credit card payments and you got yourself back on track, that shouldn’t be held against you.
What to do if You Receive a Letter of Intent
If the government denies your security clearance, you will receive a Letter of Intent that likely will include a Statement of Reasons, in which the specific reason for denial is identified. You will have 15 days in which to demand a hearing with an administrative judge. Contact a security clearance attorney for assistance, because this can mean the difference between continuing to work and having to find a new job – potentially in another career field. Your attorney can prepare a response to the Statement of Reasons and help guide you through your hearing.
In addition to having a hearing, you also have just 30 days from the time you receive it to submit a response to the Letter of Intent. Again, your attorney can be instrumental in helping craft an adequate response to the Letter of Intent.
A Final Thought
A significant portion of security clearance denials is upheld because the applicant simply doesn’t respond once they receive a Letter of Intent and a Statement of Reasons. Don’t be part of that statistic.
“An initial denial of security clearance isn’t always etched in stone,” Griffith says. “If clearance is necessary for your job, fight for it. We will explore every avenue for you to ensure that your ability to earn a living in your field remains intact.”