How to Appeal a Security Clearance Denial

a man with security clearance is the phone while reviewing documents

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.

Why Was My Security Clearance Denied?

Security clearance grants individuals access to classified national security information. Whether you are a federal employee or a private contractor, your ability to keep your job may depend on achieving security clearance. The process to receive security clearance often involves a background check and application. However, there are many factors that may cause your clearance to be denied.

Financial Factors

Financial issues often result in the denial of security clearance to certain candidates. While you can’t be denied for having some debt, you can be denied if you are not taking action to manage and control your debt. Financial strain is a leading factor in espionage and financial crimes, and government agencies will look closely at your financial history and present financial status when determining whether or not you can be trusted with security clearance.

Personal Conduct

Personal conduct is another common factor that may cause your security clearance to be denied. This involves previous incidents using falsified information on the SF-86 security clearance application, as well as patterns of rule violations and falsifying timecards. Government officials will look at personal conduct to determine the trustworthiness of potential employees, and it is important to be completely honest and up front in your application.

Other reasons for security clearance denial include:

  • Drug use
  • Criminal history
  • Foreign influence
  • Sexual behavior
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Psychological conditions

Because security clearance allows access to classified data, it is not granted lightly. National security is of utmost importance, and the government will thoroughly inspect every applicant before granting security clearance. If your clearance has been denied, it is important to understand the reasons. Our federal employment Attorneys in D.C. can discuss your options and provide knowledgeable legal advice as you seek a beneficial solution.

What Happens If You Are Denied a Security Clearance?

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% of all of the cases they receive.

If you’re part of the four percent that is denied security clearance, you also have the right to appeal the denial of security clearance and possibly have it overturned. Let’s take a look at how to complete this process.

Send Your Rebuttal Within 20 Days of the 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 (SOR). 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.

What Happens at the Appeal Hearing?

Roughly 70% 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 representative 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.

Denied Security Clearance Again? File a Final Appeal.

If your clearance is once again denied, you have one more chance, and that’s to appeal 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.

Denied a Security Clearance? John P. Mahoney, Esq. (202) 350-3881.

Because of the gravity of a security clearance appeal, it’s strongly advised you consult with an attorney throughout the process to give yourself the best possible chance at a positive outcome. Call The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC today at (202) 350-3881 to request a case evaluation and learn more about your options if you need to appeal a denial of security clearance.

Contact John P. Mahoney, Esq, Attorneys at Law online or call (202) 350-3881 for a consultation. 30 years of experience in Federal Employment Law. We represent federal employees around the world.

John P. Mahoney, Esq.

Blog Author: Attorney John P. Mahoney, Esq.

John P. Mahoney, Esq. is an award-winning attorney with 30 years of experience. Visit his bio to learn more about his experience representing the federal sector community.

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