Student debt? Many Americans face this financial consideration at some point in their lifetime, but whether you continue to make your payments or not can affect your security clearance, landing you a time slot in front of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA).

One ClearanceJobsBlog subscriber was wondering what they could’ve done different besides not getting a degree in the first place:

I had my hearing last month for my clearance. My attorney drafted up my SOR answers, but the DOHA counsel rejected it and said I had to do a hearing regardless. I turned in receipts where I paid off all old debt, my SOR answers and character letters. It probably didn’t help that my AJ changed at the last minute and so did the DOHA department counsel attorney. I have a current borrower’s defense case still pending since Jan. of 2020 (which was suggested by the Department of Education) and I am in a class a suit with other student loan borrowers which was not my choice. So how was I supposed to mitigate the student debt? I recently did a student loan debt repayment plan again after the first 3 failed because Navient collections said they didn’t get the paperwork. When I asked The Edmund law firm, they gave me a rundown but, they said kiss my clearance goodbye because I didn’t have a lawyer and they asked who my AJ and Doha Counsel were, and they said definitely kiss it goodbye cause that was a good DOHA Counsel attorney and they are sure he chewed me up. I could no longer afford my attorney because he asked for an extra 5 grand to speak at the hearing.

So, what could I have done better besides never getting a degree? I lost my job back in 2014 and have been trying to get out of default since, but the DOD isn’t hearing it. I have also held a clearance since 2010 and started paying my loans in 2010 until 2014 when I became unemployed for 6 months then went through the collections and had wage garnishments and tax offset to pay the loans.


Even though we sometimes describe student loans as  ‘safe’ debt that can be seen favorably by adjudicators, not paying your loan payments every month or being sent to collections will not be seen well. Defaulting on payments, failure to pay, or claiming lost paperwork does not make DOHA sympathetic to your case. Life happens, but debt coupled with other questionable behavior (how did you lose your job?) is the ‘whole person’ adjudicators are judging.

A little backstory on the class action is subscriber is a part of: Navient reached an almost $2B settlement over accusations that the organization had misleading loan practices. The settlement will cancel the debt of some delinquent private student loans and offer restitution to borrowers.

However, this current deal isn’t in line with the fact that the former clearance holder stopped making payments in 2014. We’ve seen how policies do not apply to DOHA appeals retroactively.

Many lenders allow borrowers to reduce your monthly payment amount to as low as $0 by exploring repayment plans online, and even though Navient claimed that they didn’t receive the paperwork, it always pays to use online tools to compare estimated payment amounts and make sure it goes through in real time.

What could you have done differently? The problem wasn’t obtaining the degree, the problem was with making payments. It always pays to communicate and confirm, especially when it comes to repayment options.


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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸