Thousands of jobs in the federal government require a security clearance in order to perform their essential functions. Getting these clearances is an extensive process that requires paperwork, background checks, and much more. Getting more advanced clearances requires even more thorough investigations and stringent requirements, and for some people this could be a huge barrier to advancing in their careers. So what happens if your application for a security clearance is denied, thus halting your employment application process or preventing you from getting a big promotion?
There’s some good news. For starters, the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) combined adjudicate favorably on roughly 96 percent of all of the cases they receive. If you’re part of the four percent that are denied, you also have the right to appeal the decision and possibly have it overturned. Let’s take a look at how to complete this process.
The Statement of Reasons (SOR)
If you are denied or have your clearance revoked, the authority who made the decision must provide written reasoning for their decision, known as the Statement of Reasons. You have the opportunity to rebut this reasoning, you must write your rebuttal down and send it to the DOHA within 20 days of you receiving your Statement of Reasons. Many people have their case dropped or lose their clearance entirely by not sending in their rebuttal in time so make sure you do not miss this deadline.
Once the DOHA receives your rebuttal, they will send you a File of Relevant Materials (FORM) and you will have 30 days to submit a written response to the file with your objections, explanations, rebuttal, and other appropriate counter-arguments. If the rebuttal is effective at disproving the DOHA’s claims, the DOHA withdraws the SOR and either grants you your clearance or continues the process. If they don’t rule it sufficient enough, they assign your case to an administrative law judge.
This is where things can be tricky. Most cases will be decided by the judge without a hearing, just through the written records of your case. You may also be able to request a hearing for your appeal.
Roughly 70 percent of all applicants who respond to their SOR request a hearing for their case, so this is by no means an uncommon solution. At this hearing, you’ll be able to state your case, respond to any reasons for the denial of your case, and more. You must appear at this hearing and you are allowed to have a federal employment attorney with you. After the hearing, the judge will make a decision about your clearance and send it to you in writing, along with all of the other information they used to either confirm or overturn the decision.
If your clearance is once again denied, you have one more chance, and that’s to appeal the judge’s decision, which you must do within 45 days of the judge’s decision. This time the case is reviewed by an appeals board, who don’t consider any new evidence in the case. They will listen to arguments that certain evidence carried either too much or not enough weight in your case, but that’s about it.
Very few of the cases that reach this point are overturned and have the clearances granted, and the decisions made here are final. If you are unfortunate and don’t have your case overturned, you’ll be barred from re-applying for a security clearance for at least a one-year period.Because of the gravity of a security clearance appeal, it’s strongly advised you consult with a federal employment attorney throughout the process to give yourself the best possible chance at a positive outcome. Call John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorney at Law today at (877) 771-2231 to request a case evaluation and learn more about your options if you need to appeal an unfavorable security clearance decision.