When there are big, government or nationwide issues that may affect an individual’s clearance eligibility, it’s common for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to offer reassurance that those issues won’t affect an individual’s clearance eligibility. When it comes to things like a global pandemic, a government shutdown, or a natural disaster, it should go without saying that those circumstances are beyond the clearance holder or applicant’s control. But ODNI is careful to not let it go without saying – they often issue clarification to put the cleared population at ease. Unfortunately, some individuals also take that as an excuse.

True or False: If even one of the circumstances around your financial issues are beyond your control, you’ll be able to keep your clearance.

As anyone who has spent time reading through appeals published by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) knows, it’s rarely a single issue that results in a security clearance denial or revocation, but a snowballing cascade of issues. Even when a security clearance denial is based on only one out of the 13 adjudicative guidelines (and often they are based on multiple guidelines), it’s generally multiple issues even within the same adjudicative guideline. So, if it’s financial issues, it’s often multiple delinquent accounts, and it’s a cross section of issues.

A recent security clearance denial case was for a 63-year old defense contractor and veteran. He’d held a security clearance since 2015, but received a Statement of Reasons in 2021 due to 7 delinquent debts totaling approximately $24,000. As always, it wasn’t the amount of debt that was the issue, but the applicant’s approach to resolving it. In noting his financial issues, the clearance holder cited the “Government shutdown in 2012 leading to his loss of employment, failing to remember to pay bills, and unspecified poor business decisions.”

False: You can’t count on a government shutdown, COVID, or student loan deferments to save your clearance.

The government is very sympathetic to issues that come up that are beyond an individual’s control. But if circumstances truly are beyond your control, you’ll want to ensure you’re maintaining a paper trail that can verify that being the case. Keeping a timeline of when you are unable to fulfill financial obligations – and why – is one of the many proactive steps security clearance holders should take to ensure they can keep their clearance. I have seen a number of cases where individuals cite the government shutdown or student loan deferment as the reason they stopped making mortgage payments or paying their bills. Often, the devil is in the details, and their financial issues proceeded those events.

COVID and Your Clearance

Unfortunately, I expect we may see security clearance denials and revocations in the near future where individuals cite COVID-related financial hardships as the reason for their denial and revocation. If that is the case, those individuals will need to be very explicit in how and why their financial issues started or were exacerbated around March 2020. If you weren’t paying your bills for two years prior – and then things simply got worse during COVID – you’ll only have half of a case for keeping your clearance. The same goes for inflation and economic issues of today. Make sure you’re maintaining a paper trail for why current events beyond your control were the specific cause of your financial issues.

If you ever appear before DOHA, don’t make claims you can’t substantiate. While DOHA may only be a ‘quasi-legal’ entity – they are a legal entity in the sense that if you’re able to bring a good case, you have a much better chance of keeping your clearance. Making claims you don’t – or can’t – back up, simply adds to issues of reliability and trustworthiness.

 

 

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.