We frequently discuss how documentation can be a critical part of keeping your clearance eligibility or obtaining an initial security clearance. No, you typically don’t need to show up to your security clearance interview with a host of documents or bank statements. But if you find yourself the recipient of a Statement of Reasons, the documentation you provide to the government can (and often does) make or break your eligibility.

True or False: If you Tell the Government You’ve Paid Off Your Debts, They Will Believe You

A recent case brought before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) highlights why financial issues continue to be the biggest red flag issue tripping up applicants – the paper trail. The good news is, if you’re proactive about addressing debt you can still get a clearance even if you do, in fact, have bad credit or debt issues. The bad news is many applicants fail to do that – or expect the government to take your word for it.

The common advice giving to applicants is to address financial issues if they come up in a Statement of Reasons (SOR). Ideally, applicants address issues before applying, but even taking steps to pay off debt or set up repayment plans as a part of an appeal can make your case. You have the option to provide an answer or response to a SOR – and also to provide documentation.

Unfortunately, for a 42-year old defense contractor, the debts stacked up, the statements that she’d created a settlement or payment plan were indicated – but proof or documentation of that wasn’t. For the five debts outlined, the applicant stated that she had created a settlement plan – but she didn’t provide documentation.

Cause of debt is also a factor in a security clearance denial or revocation. In this case, the applicant noted that her spouse was laid of “for several months” and that she had debt due to an ‘elective medical procedure.’ There are two issues there – a medical debt that was elective, along with the vague response on the spouse’s unemployment. Specifics are important in the security clearance application process, and even more so if you find yourself facing a denial or revocation.

False: You Must Document Debt Resolution

It’s not enough to respond in a SOR and say that you’ve handled the debt. Documentation is critical for the security clearance application process and it’s also critical for the denials and appeals process. If you reach any settlements or agreements – provide those statements or documents. If you don’t – don’t expect the government to take your word for it.

Financial issues aren’t just an issue of blackmail. The government is worried about what a failure to care for financial issues means for overall reliability and trustworthiness.

“This concern is broader than the possibility that an individual might knowingly compromise classified information in order to raise money. It encompasses concerns about an individual’s self-control, judgment, and other qualities essential to protecting classified information. An individual who is financially irresponsible may also be irresponsible, unconcerned, or negligent in handling and safeguarding classified information,” the DOHA decision states.

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