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Legal Insider: Psychological Conditions and Security Clearances

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

A psychological condition can become a security clearance concern for government contractors and federal employees.

The good news is that federal agencies, especially over the past 10-15 years, have responded to such concerns with more empathy and consideration than ever before. However, there are some considerations to be aware of when these issues arise.

We all know that a mental health condition can enter an individual’s life at any time and for any reason. It can be genetic or can be triggered by a death, divorce, loss of employment or injury. When a psychological condition arises in the context of applying for or attempting to retain a security clearance, the individual needs to seek legal advice to enable the person the best opportunity to maintain or obtain their security clearance.

Being diagnosed with a mental health illness doesn’t mean that the individual can’t obtain or continue to hold a security clearance. Thousands upon thousands of clearance holders retain their security clearances even if they have psychological conditions. These days, the best way for a security clearance holder to address psychological issues is to disclose them where appropriate and demonstrate that any psychological issues are under control or no longer an issue. There are many ways to do this.

Furthermore, the revised Adjudicative Guidelines (SEAD 4) for Psychological Concerns (Guideline I) state that “no negative inference concerning the standards in this guideline may be raised solely on the basis of mental health counseling.”

The key for an individual is to be upfront and honest in completing security clearance forms and in speaking with investigators about such issues. It is often the case that an individual can lose a security clearance because they did not disclose a serious psychological condition (dishonesty) when had they disclosed the psychological concern they would have obtained their security clearance.

The following are examples of the potential mitigation evidence that can be used in security clearance cases involving psychological conditions, depending on the specific facts or condition at issue. These can include:

  1. Medical opinions issued by mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors) showing that a psychological condition is under control
  2. Evidence that demonstrates that an individual has complied with medical treatment and recommendations related to a psychological condition
  3. Evidence that the individual has entered counseling, therapy or other treatment programs administered by medical professionals
  4. Evidence that a psychological condition no longer affects the individual

Each case under Guideline I is different, but we have found that most cases can be mitigated with the proper attention to treatment and the preparation of documentation showing that any major psychological condition is under control or in the past.

Conclusion

If you are in need of security clearance representation or advice, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Security Clearance BlogFacebook or Twitter.

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