Security Clearance Denials

Click to Call 253-317-8494


In today’s national security environment, obtaining a security clearance can be challenging. Further, in the post-9/11 world, more people than ever require this type of clearance to do their jobs. Many government workers, private contractors and military members must acquire a security clearance as a condition of their continued employment. Having your security clearance held up or denied will cause you tremendous problems, it may even cost you your job. At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, we fight aggressively to help civilians and active duty military members resolve their security clearance issues in the most efficient manner possible.

Common Reasons Why Your Security Clearance Could Be Delayed or Denied

Security clearances are granted under a complex framework of intersecting laws and regulations. The most important is Executive Order 12968, “Access to Classified Information,” which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and Department of Defense (DoD) Regulation 5200.2- R, “Personnel Security Program,” which was promulgated by President Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1987. Under these and other regulations, U.S. officials are instructed to conduct an extensive background check on all security clearance applicants. The information acquired in the course of the background investigation will then be used to make a determination on whether or not the individual in question will qualify for a security clearance. An applicant may be denied their security clearance for a wide variety of different reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Missing or inaccurate information: If your application is missing information or contains inaccurate or outdated information, you will likely run into problems. It is imperative that security clearance applications are filled out accurately and with all required details.
  • Financial problems: A security clearance may be denied because of an applicant’s poor finances. Recent bankruptcy, high debt levels, bad credit or other financial issues could lead to a denial.  
  • History of mental health treatment: As unfair as it may seem, a history of receiving psychological counseling or other mental health treatment could cause problems in the security clearance application process. This is an especially problematic issue for current or former military members who are often encouraged to seek treatment as a precautionary measure.
  • Foreign influence: Excessive ‘foreign influence’ can also be the cause for a security clearance application denial. Those who have extensive contacts with foreigners, especially those who are themselves immigrants, are children of immigrants or are married to an immigrant, may run into problems on this issue.
  • Substance abuse issues: A past history of substance abuse, whether involving a drug-related arrest, citation or alcohol rehabilitation treatment may lead to your security clearance being denied.
  • Questions of integrity: Finally, a security clearance application can also be denied for ‘lack of integrity’. This can mean many different things, though often it refers to a perceived lack of candor in the interview process or on the written application.

Understanding the Security Clearance Appeals Process

If your security clearance has been denied or revoked, you should not lose hope. You have recourse available. That being said, appealing your denial is a highly time sensitive matter. Indeed, you should contact an experienced security clearance appeals attorney immediately. Do not go through the appeals process without an attorney by your side.

A Statement of Reasons (SOR) Will Be Issued

If your security clearance has been denied, you will receive a Statement of Reasons (SOR) from the responsible government entity. This is an extremely important document as it will become the foundation of your appeal. Your attorney should conduct an in-depth review of the SOR to determine whether or not the concerns raised are valid and whether or not there are mitigating factors that can be raised in your defense.

Appeals for Federal Employees

For federal employees, the appeals process begins with submitting a formal response to the issues raised in the SOR. This response will be sent to the security clearance adjudicator who is overseeing your case. For the majority of applicants, that adjudicator will be the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoDCAF); though, several other agencies also have their own separate, but similar, appeals processes. Upon receipt of the applicant’s formal response, the adjudicator will review the claim once again and may either

  • Approve the security clearance, resolving the issue in the applicant’s favor;
  • Ask for additional information; or
  • Deny the application once again.

If a federal employee’s security clearance application is denied at this first review stage, then an official appeal should be filed. An official appeal will generally include a hearing where evidence and witness testimony can be submitted before an administrative judge. After hearing the case, the administrative judge will then issue a recommendation. To be clear, the judge will only issue a recommendation and not a final decision. The final decision will be made by the agency’s Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB). Still, the judge’s recommendation carries substantial weight.

Appeals for Government Contractors

The appeals process for employees of private contractors works a little differently than does the process for federal workers. Contractors should still receive an SOR from the agency in question, most often the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA), but they will typically only have 20 days to submit a response to this letter. The response will be reviewed and a determination will be made. If the written response is not sufficient to overturn the denial, then an administrative hearing should be requested immediately.

You Need to Choose the Right Security Clearance Denial Attorney

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), there are nearly 1.3 million licensed attorneys in the United States. However, only a select few have the skills and experience necessary to properly handle a security clearance appeal. Appealing a denied security clearance is a highly technical process and you need the right attorney by your side. Your career could be on the line. At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, our attorneys have extensive experience handling these cases and the appeals process. We can help protect your rights and interests. To learn more about the security clearance services we provide, contact our team today by calling us at 253-317-8494. We serve clients throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in Alaska.