Few issues have been written about more on ClearanceJobs.com than JAPS incident reports.  I have personally written at least two articles on the topic previously, and there are other good ones out there. Yet, despite all that spilled ink, my law firm continues to be inundated with questions about this issue.  The matter is described alternatively by callers as an “incident report”, a “flag on my clearance”, and “my name being in red.”  They all mean the same thing – and none of them constitutes a Statement of Reasons (SOR), the government’s first notification of its intent to deny or revoke a security clearance.  Trust me on this one: if you get an SOR, there won’t be any ambiguity about what it is.

In my most recent article on this topic I discussed what a security clearance holder with a JPAS incident report can do on his or her own to help get it resolved more expeditiously.  Also addressed were the government’s options in dealing with a JPAS incident report.  But that article was premised on the idea that the clearance holder was currently being sponsored for a clearance by a cleared contractor or a federal agency. If you are not being currently sponsored for a security clearance, you have a bigger issue than timeliness: the government simply will not adjudicate your case.  There is nothing that I or any other attorney can do about that.

The Clearance Catch-22

Although I certainly sympathize with the anger and frustration many clearance holders express upon learning this reality, the government is very clear about their policy.  The argument is that the government should not be using limited resources – manpower, funds, etc. – to investigate an incident report when there is presently not a need for the subject of the report to hold a clearance.  This puts many clearance holders in a catch-22 situation.  They need a sponsor in order to get the incident report resolved, but many cleared employers don’t want to hire them for fear that the incident report will be unfavorably adjudicated (i.e. an SOR issued) and the employer will be forced to terminate the now un-cleared employee.

Unfortunately, there are attorneys out there who take advantage of desperate applicants with a Loss of Jurisdiction (LOJ).  We hear stories somewhat regularly of so-called security clearance attorneys charging people thousands of dollars to “investigate” a JPAS incident report with LOJ or to attempt to get it resolved.  Of course, nothing useful comes from the efforts and the applicant walks away with only a lighter wallet.

Attorneys who practice in this area and engage in such behavior are, I feel strongly, acting unethically.  Attorneys who don’t understand what LOJ means should probably not have undertaken the representation in the first place.

Like with anything else, hiring a security clearance attorney is a “buyer beware” type of situation.  Do your homework, review the attorney’s track record, and ask cleared colleagues for recommendations. But, no matter what else you do, understand this: hiring an attorney to solve an unsolvable problem is just throwing money down the drain.  Don’t fall for these types of unscrupulous or uneducated pitches.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at https://www.berrylegal.com/practice-areas/security-clearance/.