By the time you read this article, there is a good chance that you’ve already abandoned any New Year’s resolutions you may have made for 2018.
If you think that statement is cynical, I promise I didn’t pull it out of thin air. According to a number of different research studies, a full quarter of people who make New Year’s resolutions go on to break them just one (1) week into the new year. Fast-forward hypothetically to December 2018 and that number plunges to a dismal ninety-two percent. That’s right: just eight (8) percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions apparently manage to keep them.
If you’re feeling bad about yourself right now, I suppose the consolation is that at least you’re in good company. (Full disclosure: I’m definitely part of that ninety-two percent).
But if you are curious as to how the other eight percent does it, psychologists say that – among other things like having an accountability buddy and avoiding procrastination – setting small, defined, and manageable goals is the trick.
In that spirit, here are a few very doable resolutions for security clearance holders based on some of the most common clearance problems I see in my law practice:
MANAGE AND SECURE YOUR CREDIT
Take the beginning of the new year as an opportunity to review your credit report from all three major bureaus (Experian, Trans-Union, and Equifax), which you can do for free online at www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the ONLY official website sponsored directly by the three credit bureaus, so be careful to avoid imposters or those who seek to charge fees for what you are entitled to once a year by federal law for free.
It is critical to periodically review your credit reports, checking for any evidence of identity theft, delinquent debt of which you were unaware (e.g. parking tickets mailed to an old address), or other potential causes for concern. After all, financial issues are the number one reason why security clearances are denied or revoked. If you do find evidence of fraud on your credit report, immediately file a police report. Then, consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports (something you have to do with all three bureaus individually) and even alerting the Internal Revenue Service to prevent against a fraudulent tax return being filed in your name.
SIGN-UP FOR SECURITY REFRESHER TRAINING
Many security violations in the workplace are the result of inadequate training. Don’t risk losing your security clearance – and your livelihood – because of an avoidable mistake like mishandling classified information or failing to comply with certain self-reporting requirements. Seek out your security manager and proactively ask for additional training if you are uncertain about how to appropriately discharge your security responsibilities. If training is already scheduled, pay attention! Far too many people treat refresher training as an opportunity to play solitaire, update their iPhone, or daydream. Don’t be one of them unless you like spending money on security clearance attorneys like me.
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH OR SUBSTANCE ABUSE ISSUES
Too often clients tell me that they failed to seek out badly needed medical help – whether for a mental health or substance abuse condition – because they worried about the ramifications that doing so would have on their security clearance.
As I have explained previously, having a security clearance denied or revoked on mental health grounds is extremely rare. When it does occur, the initial decision can often be successfully challenged with favorable medical evidence. In other words, if a security clearance holder recognizes the problem, seeks out help, and is compliant with their treatment program, those circumstances tend to help mitigate the government’s concerns – not exacerbate them.
The same thing goes with fighting the disease of addiction. Many recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous stress that the first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem. If you notice yourself craving alcohol or indulging to excess – or, if you are misusing prescription drugs or using any illegal drugs – the time to ask for help is now. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can hide these kinds of problems longer than temporarily; something will inevitably happen that draws the attention of security officials, co-workers, or management to your problem – and by then it is often too late.
Ultimately, the theme tying all of these resolutions together is proactivity. Much like a Bar Card for lawyers or a medical license for doctors, your security clearance is your ticket to a good and often well-paying career. Guard it jealously.
Best wishes for a happy and successful 2018.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.