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Security Clearance Denied for Credit Card Debt

Want to get Security Clearance? It May Require a Thrifty Spouse

Do you need a security clearance for your job? You might want to make sure your spouse is thrifty when it comes to credit card use.

A checkered financial past can interfere with the security clearance approval process, and that past doesn’t necessarily have to be of your own doing; if your spouse has racked up debt, it could affect your clearance hopes.

One applicant learned this the hard way recently. He claimed that while married to his first wife, three credit cards that totaled more than $25,000 in debt became delinquent, and eventually the creditors charged off the debt, meaning they gave up on being repaid according to the loan’s original terms.

The applicant stated that his first wife was responsible for the debts, and had made the charges without his permission. He claimed that he had resolved them, and they no longer appeared on his credit reports.

“While this scenario may be true, it can be difficult to prove that your spouse is entirely responsible without sufficient evidence,” says security clearance lawyer Catie Young, who did not represent this client.

That is what Administrative Judge Roger C. Wesley indicated when he denied the applicant’s clearance.

“The Judge stated that Applicant’s claim that the charges were made by his wife cannot be corroborated from the evidence supplied,” according to an Appeal Board Decision released in August. “He commented that, without more documented payment progress, he could not conclude that the debts had been paid or settled. He stated that the fact that they no longer appear on his credit reports is not conclusive that they were actually resolved.”

Falling behind on debt payments – whether it’s you or your spouse – doesn’t have to be the death knell for security clearance. There are mitigating circumstances, which are outlined in the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

This applicant was denied security clearance under Guideline F of the Adjudicative Guidelines. Mitigating circumstances for Guideline F include:

  • The behavior happened a long time ago or was an isolated incident that hasn’t been repeated, and it is unlikely to be repeated.
  • The circumstances that led to the financial problem were outside of the applicant’s control, such as a medical emergency, a death, or a divorce or separation.
  • The applicant made a good-faith effort to repay the overdue debt.

It is unknown whether this applicant had legal representation for his appeal, but it is possible the outcome might have been different had he done so.

“In situations such as these, an attorney who specializes in security clearance law might suggest an applicant provide information that might prove them to be trustworthy and capable of using good judgment,” Young says.

In fact, that is what was missing from this case, according to documents. Administrative judges noted that the applicant provided no job performance evaluations, character references, evidence of community service, etc. which might have cast the applicant in a more favorable light.

It is important to understand that a checkered financial past doesn’t have to keep you from the security clearance that you may need to perform your job. Consult with an attorney who specializes in this area of law and place all your cards on the table. A qualified attorney can evaluate the good, and help you devise an approach to mitigate the bad and the ugly.

If you are in the process of completing the SF-86 and you are concerned that aspects of your past may not play in your favor as your application goes through the approval process, call our office to schedule a consultation. Even if you don’t foresee any obstacles that would prevent you from obtaining clearance, having an attorney assist you with the application can help ensure it is completed thoroughly and accurately. That could result in your application being approved faster.