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How Lawyers Can Assist in the US Federal Government Security Clearance Process

  • By: Sarah Mugmon
    Published: June 14, 2021
Lawyer for Security Clearance

Are You Going Through the US Federal Government Security Clearance Process? This Lipp Law Article Covers the Security Clearance Application Process, and How a Lawyer Can Assist You.

This Article Also Details the Appeal Process For When Your Security Clearance Application is Denied.

Security Clearance Application, Background Investigation, and Appeal Processes

Article at a Glance

  • To get a security clearance, you first need to answer the application questions honestly.
  • Then, you are investigated. After the investigation, your application is either granted or denied.
  • If your application is denied, you can appeal, and you can have a lawyer to help.
  • Federal employees and government contractors have different appeal processes, but the appeal processes have things in common.
  • You can appeal if you are facing security clearance revocation or suspension, as well.

Getting and maintaining a security clearance is a job requirement when their duties require access to classified information. There are several steps in the adjudicative process for getting or renewing security clearances. For applicants, particularly those who must reveal unfavorable information about themselves, it may feel like a daunting process. You can use a lawyer if they need assistance at any step along the way.

Lipp Law lawyer Sarah Mugmon advises and represents federal employees and government contractors facing security clearance concerns. Contact Sarah today for your complimentary 15-minute consultation regarding your security clearance case.

The following is a breakdown of the security clearance process and notes how a lawyer can assist you in the security clearance process.

  1. Standard Form 86 (SF-86) or the eQIP (when online)

The SF-86 is over 130 pages and contains questions related to personal matters such as past employment, foreign contacts and activities, criminal records, past illegal substance use, and financial history. The questionnaire serves as the guide for the next procedural step, which is a background investigation. It is imperative for an applicant to provide complete and honest responses to the questionnaire, even if he or she is providing unfavorable information. At the application stage, Lipp Law can answer any questions that you have about the application.

  1. Background Investigation and Determination

Background investigations are conducted by an investigator who reviews your application, gathers additional information about you, and requests further details when needed.  Investigators may interview you or individuals connected to you or request additional documentation to supplement your questionnaire. Lipp Law can prepare you for an interview. It is crucial at this stage for you to remain honest, consistent, and willing to cooperate with the investigator.

The investigator provides their findings to an agency adjudicator, who determines whether to issue or renew your security clearance. For most federal employees and government contractors seeking a security clearance, the agency adjudicator is the Department of Defense Central Clearance Facility (DoDCAF). Some Department of Defense agencies (e.g., DIA or NSA) and other Departments (e.g., Energy, Homeland Security, Labor, Treasury, or Justice) have their own adjudicative entity that follows similar processes for security clearance decisions.

If the security clearance is granted or renewed by the adjudicator, the process is complete for you. If the adjudicator reaches an adverse determination, however, you may choose to appeal.

  1. Letter of Intent (LOI) to Deny a Clearance and Statement of Reasons (SOR) Issued

If the DoDCAF (or other agency adjudicator, depending on the agency) denies or revokes your security clearance, it issues a Letter of Intent (LOI) to deny the clearance that contains a Statement of Reasons (SOR). The SOR lists the issues on which the adjudicator relied in denying or revoking your clearance. Depending on the federal agency, you must notify the agency adjudicator of your intent to respond to the SOR. It is also a good idea at this time to request copies of any materials relied upon by the agency adjudicator.

Lipp Law lawyer Sarah Mugmon can assist you with assessing the SOR and determining whether you have arguments to either disprove or mitigate the issues listed in the SOR.

Contact Sarah today for your complimentary 15-minute consultation regarding your security clearance case.

  1. Appeal Process for Federal Employees

If you are a federal employee and choose to dispute the SOR, the first step is providing a written rebuttal to the agency adjudicator. The agency adjudicator then makes its final decision on whether to grant or deny the clearance. At this stage, a lawyer familiar with the security clearance adjudicative guidelines can provide you with a thorough review of the facts, develop effective arguments, and draft a persuasive rebuttal.

If the agency adjudicator decides to deny or revoke your security clearance after reviewing your written rebuttal, you then have the option to either request a written decision based on the record from the agency’s Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB) or request a hearing.

When you request a hearing after DoDCAF denied or revoked your clearance, a Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) administrative judge will hear your case. Other federal agencies that fall outside DoDCAF’s purview follow their own similar processes. A hearing provides you with an opportunity to present your evidence and question witnesses regarding the issues listed in the SOR. Lipp Law is familiar with these hearings and has the tools to help you best present your case.

  1. Appeal Process for Government Contractors

If you are a government contractor, the appeal process is slightly different as follows:

  1. You must provide a notarized response to a questionnaire within 20 days of receipt of the SOR.
  2. You have the option of requesting either only a written decision from or a hearing before a DOHA administrative judge.
    1. If you opt for only a written decision, you will receive a File of Relevant Material (FORM) that contains all the evidence against you so that you may rebut the alleged security issues in writing before the administrative judge renders his or her decision.
    2. If you opt for a hearing, you will have an opportunity to preset your own evidence and question witnesses before the administrative judge. A lawyer can assist you by representing you at the hearing and presenting your case in the most favorable light.

We hope this article was helpful to you and wish you the best of luck with your security clearance application process.

Our firm is here to help, please contact us to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation regarding your case.

Kathryn Megan Lipp

Katie dedicates her practice to employment separation guidance.
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