Security clearance is a vital component of many federal jobs. For those who have yet to obtain clearance or those who have had their clearance denied, understanding the different tiers of security and the factors that may lead to denial can be overwhelming. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different levels of security clearance and what may cause your security clearance to be denied. We’ll also discuss how to appeal a denial and what to do if you lose your security clearance while employed.
Different Tiers of Security Clearance for Federal Employment
The United States government utilizes three levels of security clearances for federal employment: confidential, secret, and top secret. The first is Confidential, which allows access to confidential information without a need-to-know basis designation. The second tier is Secret, which grants individuals access to sensitive information on an as-needed basis depending on their position (includes "L" class security clearance designation). The highest level of security clearance is Top Secret, which allows access to highly sensitive information.
Factors That May Lead to Denial
When applying for any level of security clearance, all applicants must undergo a thorough background check that evaluates their character and trustworthiness. During the background check process, certain factors may lead to a person’s clearance being denied—such as having a criminal record, financial issues such as bankruptcy or delinquent debts, having affiliations with groups or organizations connected with espionage, and/or drug use or addiction. Even something as seemingly small as traffic tickets or omissions on your application could result in a denial.
Appealing A Denial
Being denied security clearance can be devastating, especially if clearance is necessary for advancing or continuing your career. However, if you were denied clearance, you have the right to appeal the denial and have it reversed.
When issuing a denial, the authority that issued the denial is required to provide a written explanation of their decision to deny you clearance. This is referred to as a Statement of Reasons (SOR). To begin the appeals process, you must submit a written rebuttal to the DOHA within 20 days of receiving your SOR. It is paramount that you meet this deadline, as cases can be and frequently are denied or thrown out because the person appealing missed the deadline.
After your rebuttal is submitted and received by the DOHA, they will send you what is called a File of Relevant Materials (FORM). Within 30 days of receiving your FORM, you must respond in writing with a full explanation of your rebuttal. In some cases, if the DOHA agrees with your rebuttal, they can withdraw your SOR. They may then move forward with the security clearance process and/or grant you clearance.
If the DOHA does not immediately agree with your rebuttal, your case will go before an administrative judge. Many appeals cases that reach a judge are handled without a hearing and based on the written record of your case. Because of this, it is critical that you work with a skilled attorney when submitting your appeal. Similarly, if your case does require a hearing, having an experienced security clearance appeals attorney can be immensely helpful.
If you are still unsuccessful in your appeal, you have one last option to file a final appeal of the initial appeals decision. It's important to note that no new evidence can be submitted with a final appeal, and the appeals board will only consider the existing evidence.
What To Do If Your Security Clearance Is Revoked While Employed
Similar to when someone is denied security clearance during their initial application, if you are a current federal employee who has had their security clearance revoked, you have the option to appeal the decision through the process outlined above. As with any issue dealing with denied, revoked, or suspended security clearance, it is always recommended that you consult with a federal employment attorney for guidance before beginning the appeals process.
Don't Risk Your Career; Call Us for Help
Security clearances are essential components of many federal positions. Being denied or losing your security clearance can derail your career significantly. At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, we appreciate how critical the outcome of your case is. Our attorneys have helped countless federal employees deal with similar situations, and we are prepared to use our wealth of knowledge and experience to help you.
Contact us online now to discuss your options with one of our attorneys.