As someone who regularly reads the security clearance denials and revocations coming out of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), I have a confession to make. I often find myself rooting against the applicant. I know the facts – the vast majority of individuals are able to obtain access to classified information by taking steps to mitigate issues. Unfortunately, I regularly come across cases where I’m quite frankly shocked the individual bothered to keep applying. Whether it’s the upskirter or the heavy drinker, some individuals clearly lack the reliability and trustworthiness the national security community requires.
Fortunately, I sometimes also read the cases and find myself rooting for the applicant and hoping DOHA sees the mitigating factors that I do.
True or False: A Debt Resolution Company Is One of the Best Ways to Mitigate Delinquent Debts
A common thread I often see in issues with financial troubles is how bad financial advice can really trip up a number of clearance applicants. And it’s not just bad advice from your brother Joe, but often bad advice that comes from debt resolution and consolidation companies. There are many for-profit debt consolidation options along with non-profit advisors, but whatever the company or entity, if you are considering taking advice from anyone about your financial issues, do some diligence and make sure you’re getting advice that’s good not just for addressing your debt, but also keeping you out of career or criminal headaches.
A recent case before DOHA highlighted how debt resolution companies don’t always dish up the best advice for clearance eligibility. The applicant faced mounting debt exacerbated by the death of a parent and several periods of unemployment. The applicant had been current on bills, but facing significant debt, until he consulted with a debt company who recommended he stop paying several debts in order to negotiate settlements with those creditors. Those delinquent debts were likely contributing factors to the individual’s security clearance denial.
False: Debt Resolution Companies May Not Know Anything About Your Clearance Eligibility
Don’t count on a debt resolution company to have your job or career prospects in mind – they are often singularly focused on negotiating down debt. And while there are some reputable companies or organizations, there are also a number just looking to make money for themselves. Take caution when taking financial advice, and consider how it will stack up against your clearance career prospects.
The good news in this case is that while the applicant had nine delinquent accounts, he also had payment plans or strategies in place for all of them. Documentation is key. And even if you took some steps that could potentially derail your career, if you can document why, that will go a long way. The security clearance process is not for the perfect – but having a paper trail and showing you want to address any issues – financial or otherwise – is key.