Here’s your weekly DOHA dose – a shot of security clearance appeal cases and their outcome. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals releases the results of their security clearance appeals cases. They’re one of the best insights into which clearance cases are granted or denied in the Department of Defense.


The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) has rightly been highlighting how unlikely it is that mental health issues result in security clearance denial. When it comes to mental health as an adjudicative criteria, it’s important to note that being proactive about caring for your mental health is critical. Individuals who lose their security clearances or are denied eligibility generally show a pattern of failing to follow the recommendations of mental health professionals and choose other self destructive behaviors such as self medicating with illegal drugs or alcohol.

“Statistics show that cleared individuals are not likely to gain or lose security clearance eligibility after seeking mental health care or after experiencing mental health symptoms,” notes DCSA. “From 2012 to 2018, the DoD CAF rendered 2.3 million adjudicative actions, including those granting or denying clearance eligibility or determining jurisdiction. Only 12 individuals had their clearance eligibility revoked or denied based on psychological conditions alone.”

The mental health question on the SF-86 presents one of the more significant changes in the security clearance application in the past decade or more. The question is a lot more limited in its scope, in large part designed to ensure that individuals don’t hesitate to take proactive steps to address their mental health. There are a few disorders and issues that need to be reported, along with any mental health related hospital stays. While the numbers are incredibly low, it doesn’t mean you won’t find some security clearance denials related to mental health among the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals. A January case presents an extreme picture of someone whose mental health issues could not be mitigated.

“During the course of his hospitalization, he disclosed “grandiose delusions,” stating that “ the power of his anger was enormous. He literally was able to control storms and tornadoes and his anger could crush this building flat.” He expressed a concern that he is both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that he was not able to suppress Mr. Hyde. He also advised that, on one occasion, he had become so frustrated with himself that he hit himself in the head with a hammer.”

When mental Health Issues Represent a Clearance Issue

The applicant in question had a few issues that made mitigating his mental health issues problematic:

  • A pattern of discontinuing mental health treatment despite recommendations.
  • Leaving a position rather than addressing mental health issues.
  • Failure to respond to questions about his mental health candidly.
  • A mental health provider who believed the applicant should not receive a clearance.

In the end, however, it was actually the applicant’s own words that were the biggest issue in failing to mitigate his mental health issues.

Despite his claim that his symptoms are under control, Applicant testified at the hearing that he had the power to move storms.
[DC]: Do you recall telling your treatment team that you had the power to control storms and tornadoes?
[Applicant]: Yes.
[DC]: Do you believe yourself to have the power to control – –
[Applicant]: May I explain?
[DC]: Yes
* * *
[Applicant]: I don’t understand why, but through my word, I have seen storms move.
I don’t understand that one. I seriously don’t, but they have .
* * *
[DC]: So, do you believe that you have the power to move storms?
[Applicant]: No, I said I had, it’s not – – it’s not a science, it’s not like science that’s repeatable and predictable. No, it’s on its own occasion. It happens and then you try it again, no, it does not work. It happened once, but you can’t control it, and that part I’m grieved that I cannot better explain. It’s like I can control it now, tomorrow I won’t be able to, and I don’t know why the difference.
[Judge]: Again, sir, controlling what?
[Applicant]: Move storms.
[Judge]: Storms?
[Applicant]: Storms, move them.
[Judge]: Like climate-type storms?
[Applicant]: Yes.
[Judge]: Okay, thank you.
[DC]: When, most recently, did you feel yourself to have moved a storm?
[Applicant]: The most recent one, I came out of my building at the end of work day at [work site] and I saw the clouds starting to circle over the top of our main office building. I requested they move, and they did.

False: Mental Health Issues can result in clearance denial for an individual who fails to seek treatment

The testimony in the above case presents a clear picture of an individual who has been presented with the option and opportunity to get help – but who has not done so. If you want to believe in your own ability to control the weather, there is nothing to stop you. But working in national security and having access to classified information is a privilege, not a right. DOHA cases reveal time and again how the decision to allow someone access to classified information is only made when doing so is in the best interests of the government. When there is any doubt about the reasonableness of someone, their reliability and judgment – the government cannot issue a security clearance.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer