A review of security clearance cases in 2016 revealed that even though the economy is bouncing back, the overwhelming majority of security clearance denials still are due to financial considerations.

A review of cases between January 1 and May 31 found that at least 221 cited Guideline F: Financial Considerations of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information as the reason for initially denying applicants’ security cases. Some cases cited additional guidelines.

This is a trend that has been a decade in the making. In 2010, Virginia security clearance lawyer Sheldon I. Cohen reviewed cases between 2006 and 2010 and identified a correlation between home foreclosures/defaults/short sales and clearance denials/revocations.

He outlined the increase in these instances in a 2010 article:

“From 2000 to 2002, there was one reported case at (the Department of Defense, Office of Hearings and Appeals) dealing with foreclosure. Between 2003 and 2006, there averaged three cases per year. In 2007 and 2008, the number of cases dealing with foreclosures jumped to nine each year. In 2009, there were twenty-four such cases, and in the first five months of 2010…there have been nine foreclosure cases thus far.”

Considering the article written about this phenomenon in March, “it doesn’t appear that anything has changed since then,” says Catie Young, a security clearance lawyer.

The concern behind Guideline F is that government employees, military personnel and government contractors who have fallen upon difficult financial times may be “more likely to breach security when offered financial incentives,” according to a Pro Publica article from 2010.

In looking at numerous 2016 Industrial Clearance Decisions published online by the Department of Defense, it was noted that financial difficulties that caused applicants to lose their security clearance ran the gamut. Here are some examples:

  • A woman who had delinquent debts totaling more than $171,000 and including tax liens, a collection account and a judgment.
  • A man who failed to file federal tax returns for several years.
  • A woman with a delinquent mortgage obligation on a rental property totaling more than $54,000.
  • A man with 25 delinquent debts totaling nearly $48,000.
  • A woman who didn’t file her tax returns for five years, and had 10 delinquent debts totaling more than $178,000, the majority of which were related to student loans.

Several appeals mentioned new evidence that the applicant believed mitigated the circumstances. However, the Board cannot consider new evidence on appeal, according to documents.

For example, a woman who was issued a Statement of Reasons in January 2015 presented information on appeal in 2016 to show that her debt was due to a medical problem beyond her control, and wasn’t likely to recur. That information couldn’t be considered.

“This is another example of why it is important to retain a lawyer to assist you in the SF-86 process, and in an appeals process, should you receive a Statement of Reasons,” Young says. “If there is sufficient evidence to prove that something such as unpaid debts were the result of circumstances beyond your control, an attorney who specializes in this area of law will help you identify that and present it at the appropriate time.”

If you require a security clearance as part of your job, call our office today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can assist you in the process to help ensure a favorable outcome.