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Legal Insider: Being truthful on security clearance forms is critical

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.

Our law firm has represented thousands of security clearance applicants and holders over the years. As such, one of the most common mistakes that security clearance applicants or clearance holders make is not being fully truthful on security clearance forms, e.g. e-QIP or SF-86. A significant percentage of our cases involves this very issue.

Here are three quick tips to consider:

Take Time to Complete Clearance Forms Accurately: One of the most common issues that we run across in representing those with security clearances are situations where the individual has completed their clearance forms with no intent to deceive, but erroneously.

Later, an investigator uncovers the mistake and wonders if the individual was attempting to deceive them. In those types of cases, we have to demonstrate the honesty and integrity of the individual involved to the clearance adjudicator and how the mistake was made. The far easier solution is to try to catch the mistakes in advance by taking the time necessary for accuracy.

Get Legal Advice if you are Hesitating About Whether to Disclose Something: Another common situation is when an individual doesn’t want to disclose something that has occurred in their past, say marijuana use on a security clearance form. When these individuals come to us ahead of time we remind them that not being truthful on clearance forms is the worst possible plan.

While not often charged, lying on security clearance forms can be considered a criminal offense. In many of these cases, just speaking with a lawyer knowledgeable in security clearances can help the person decide whether to disclose an issue or discontinue the clearance process if there is potential criminal liability. There are situations when it is better to back out of the security clearance process early than complete security clearance forms if there are significant criminal issues.

Rectify Old Mistakes: Another area where we counsel clearance clients is when a prior disclosure was never made, e.g. drug usage or an arrest. For those types of situations, we often counsel individuals to speak with their security officers to complete a supplemental security disclosure where appropriate. This often comes up when the non-disclosure occurred many years ago when the individual held a secret clearance but whose career has since been very successful and they are now seeking higher level clearances or will be undergoing polygraph testing.

Security clearance adjudicators will often given credit to an individual for voluntarily disclosing adverse information before it is uncovered (or even where it might never have been uncovered).

Honesty is always the best policy. However, mistakes are often made and can often be mitigated. The important thing to know as a security clearance holder or applicant is that these issues can often be overcome. When in doubt about disclosures, please get legal advice because each situation varies depending on the facts involved.

Contact Us

If you are in need of security clearance law 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 Facebook or Twitter.

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