Breaking Down the Complexities of Federal Security Clearance Investigations & Appeals

What to Do If Your Security Clearance is Revoked or Denied

For many federal employees, obtaining and maintaining a security clearance is crucial to their job. A security clearance allows access to classified information that is necessary for many federal positions. However, the process of obtaining and retaining a security clearance can be complicated and confusing.

If your security clearance has been denied or revoked, it's important to understand the investigation and appeals process. Keep reading to learn more.

Understanding Federal Security Clearance Investigations

Security clearance investigations can be complex and lengthy. The investigation is a critical component of the process. During an investigation, your background, character, and conduct will be scrutinized. Investigators may interview several people from your life and past, including employers, landlords, neighbors, and more. They may also consult your credit history, tax, and school records.

Common reasons for security clearance denial include the following:

  • Financial issues
  • Drug or alcohol abuse,
  • Mental health problems
  • Criminal history

Other Problems that Could Lead to a Denial or Revocation

Receiving your security clearance can be vital to your career advancement, and it is a very stressful process for many people. However, it is crucial that you avoid some common red flags that may lead to a denial or revocation of security clearances.

Two major red flags that can lead to a security clearance denial include:

  • Failure to disclose information
  • Dishonesty during the investigation process

It can be tempting not to mention things that happened a long time ago, which you think may not be relevant, or which you are worried will reflect poorly on you. However, withholding or trying to minimize this information may create a bigger problem for you and ultimately lead to a denial. Instead, being honest and transparent throughout the investigation process is the way to go.

If you are going through a security clearance investigation or are applying for a job and are unsure how to approach the process, it may be worth consulting with a federal employment attorney like ours at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC.

Mitigating Factor Consideration

Mitigating factor consideration is an important aspect of federal security clearance investigations. Mitigating factors are circumstances or events that can reduce the severity of negative conduct or activities that might otherwise disqualify an individual from obtaining a federal security clearance.

Examples of mitigating factors include:

  • The disqualifying conduct occurred long ago or while you were an adolescent, and there is no evidence of similar subsequent conduct
  • The information or incident is not pertinent to an assessment of your trustworthiness or reliability
  • The issue was an isolated incident, beyond your control, or not recent
  • The incident in question is not representative of a pattern, and there is no indication of a current problem
  • You have received counseling, therapy, or rehabilitation to address the problem in question
  • You severed ties with the organization or individual once you found out that what they were doing was unlawful

When approaching a security clearance investigation, it is important to remember that the government is assessing you holistically and that one problematic incident in your past does not automatically disqualify you from receiving a security clearance. Instead, the government is looking for an overall sense of who you are, whether any issues indicate a recurring pattern that is representative of poor judgment, irresponsibility, or instability.

Appealing Security Clearance Decisions

If your security clearance is denied or revoked, it's possible to appeal the decision. The appeals process involves filing a formal request for a review of the decision by an adjudicative body. It's important to note that there are strict timelines for filing an appeal, and missing them can result in a denial of your appeal.

Grounds for appealing a decision can include the following:

  • Procedural errors
  • Substantive errors
  • Adverse credibility determinations
  • Improper consideration of evidence

Building a strong case for your appeal involves gathering evidence to support your claim. This includes providing documentation of any mitigating factors such as counseling, rehabilitation, or other corrective actions taken. Demonstrating your commitment to addressing any issues that may have led to the denial or revocation of your security clearance can help build a strong case.

We Understand the Consequences of a Denied Security Clearance

A denied security clearance can have severe consequences, including loss of employment, financial strain, and damage to your reputation. Hiring an experienced federal employment lawyer, like those at our firm, can be beneficial when appealing a security clearance decision. Our knowledgeable lawyers are available to help explain the appeals process, inform you of your rights, and guide you through the complex legal procedures. They can also help you build a strong case by gathering evidence and presenting mitigating factors.

Reach out to us today if you have questions about the federal security clearance process or if you need help determining your legal options after being denied or having your security clearance revoked.