Alcohol Issues in Security Clearance Cases

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

Case Summaries Involving Guideline G Cases where Clearance Was Granted

Example A:  Security clearance applicant was 34 years old and had a history of alcohol-related incidents before being diagnosed with alcohol dependence in 2006. Following alcohol treatment in 2006, he abstained from alcohol consumption for 5 years before resuming infrequent use. The applicant was found to have recommitted himself to total abstinence, was found to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, and had a sponsor to help him work on alcohol issues. Applicant was found to have mitigated the security concerns under Guideline G, alcohol consumption and his security clearance was granted.  For the entire case, please click here.

Example B: Security clearance applicant was 54 years old and had 3 alcohol-related incidents from 1984 to 2000. Following that time period, he had abstained from alcohol use from 2001 to 2009, a period of about 8 years. Subsequently, he had resumed responsible alcohol use without any problems, consisting of 1-2 beers after work, but not daily. Further, there was no evidence of any alcohol-related incident for the past 15 years. The Administrative Judge found that the individual had provided sufficient evidence to mitigate the security concerns under Guideline G and granted the security clearance.  For the entire case, please click here.

Example C: Security clearance applicant was 45 years old and had issues with alcohol dependence over his life. Applicant was found to have taken seriously the fact that he was an alcoholic and had to completely abstain from alcohol. The individual also presented evidence that he regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous and also that he had a strong support network. The Administrative Judge found that the applicant was earnest in his efforts at recovery and had mitigated the security concerns under Guideline G, alcohol consumption and granted the individual’s security clearance.  For the entire case, please click here.

Things to Consider for Alcohol Cases Under Guideline G

In security clearance cases involving Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, it is very important to understand just how important it is to demonstrate that the individual understands and acknowledges (where appropriate) their alcohol issues and concerns.  Denying a known alcohol problem only makes mitigation more problematic. It cannot be overstated that security clearance adjudicators take alcohol concerns seriously. Absent significant evidence of rehabilitation or other efforts, it can be hard to keep or obtain a security clearance.

Here are 14 items (not a full list, which is too long to list here) that we often consider when handling Guideline G cases:

 

Financial Concerns For Security Clearance Holders

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

One of the most often raised issues in security clearance cases involves the issue of financial concerns for a federal employee or government contractor.  The majority of security clearance cases, by far, involve this issue.  This type of security clearance case falls under Guideline F, Financial Considerations of the new June 2017 Adjudicative Guidelines contained in Security Executive Agent Directive 4.   Guideline F is the section of the Adjudicative Guidelines which involve financial considerations and provides the basis to evaluate their impact on an individual’s ability to maintain a security clearance.

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DOHA Security Clearance Tips

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

A frequent topic that comes up in our law firm’s security clearance practice involves the issue of how to best prepare for an upcoming personal appearance or administrative hearing before the Department of Defense, Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). While the topic could be covered in an entire book on the subject, we have put together a few observations in the process from our practice our this area of law.

It is very important to retain a lawyer familiar with the DOHA process. This is critical.  An attorney familiar with DOHA processes can best advise an individual in how to prepare and present their cases in order to give the best possible opportunity for a successful outcome.

How a Case Gets Scheduled for a DOHA Hearing

Typically, a case gets scheduled for a hearing before a DOHA Administrative Judge following a response to a Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoD CAF) Statement of Reasons, the individual’s response to the SOR (and their request for a hearing). If a case is not resolved with the individual’s response, then the matter will be scheduled for an administrative hearing.  Usually, the attorney representing the individual  will be notified of the pending hearing and will be asked to correspond with the government’s attorney to schedule the hearing date.

DOHA Personal Appearance Process

When you receive a notice that your security clearance matter has been scheduled for a hearing before an DOHA Administrative Judge, there are a number of immediate issues that must be addressed in order to prepare for this very important presentation. It is important to realize that the Administrative Judge will have access to the entire case file of documents and information that was reviewed and/or considered by DoD CAF in making their earlier adverse determinations with regards to an individual’s security clearance.

Therefore, the key in preparing for one’s personal appearance is for the individual presenting their matter before the DOHA Administrative Judge to not just repeat earlier arguments made below, but to do their best to exhaustively present any and all other materials and/or witnesses that have not yet been reviewed in order to give one the best chance of obtaining a positive result. Character evidence can be extremely important

DOHA Personal Appearance Considerations

Here are some practices that we follow in our security clearance practice as we handle security clearance proceedings before DOHA during the administrative judge process.

1. Hearing Preparation: One of the most important aspects of the personal appearance is to thoroughly prepare for the administrative hearing. A DOHA hearing must be well planned out in advance. The applicant for the security clearance should be prepared to answer questions about the issues involved in the case. It is very important that that applicant also be prepared for potential cross-examination questions by government counsel.

2. Exhibits: Exhibits to support an individual’s case at a personal appearance are highly recommended and necessary. It is very important to gather as much evidence and/or documents in support of the individual’s security clearance matter as possible. If a written reference is to be submitted on behalf of an individual at a DOHA proceeding, it should be notarized where possible (or possibly in the form of a declaration) as these will be given more credence than those that are not sworn.

3. Government Exhibits: It is important to also be familiar with all of the government’s exhibits in preparation for the hearing.  The most typical exhibit for the government will be the personal interview and/or the previously completed SF-86. It is important for the applicant or clearance holder to be familiar with their prior submissions in preparation for cross-examination. One of the most frequent questions is whether or not the individual agrees or disagrees with any statement made in the personal interview.

4. Witnesses: It is important to ensure that all witnesses for the DOHA appearance are present, ready and prepared to testify before the Administrative Judge. These individuals can include fact witnesses, co-workers, supervisors, doctors, specialists, and others whose testimony may go to the issue of granting an individual’s security clearance. In our experience, administrative judges tend to take character witnesses seriously in close cases.

Conclusion

In sum, DOHA hearings are perhaps the most important part of the security clearance review process for DOD contractors and federal employees and should be treated as such. Despite any indications that the process can be undertaken by individuals without an attorney, I have found that to be an extremely unwise course of action which can have adverse circumstances. Anyone facing a DOHA administrative hearing should make the most of the opportunity to present a strong case in favor of the granting of a security clearance. If you need assistance with a security clearance case, please call us at (703) 668-0070 or contact us at www.berrylegal.com or through this page.

What is a Statement of Reasons (SOR)?

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

We are often asked what is a Statement of Reasons (SOR) in the context of a security clearance matter.  A SOR is merely the basis for government security concerns about holding a security clearance.  Generally, an SOR lists specific issues of concern under the Adjudicative Guidelines. The concerns listed in an SOR, if left unaddressed, will likely lead to the loss of a security clearance.  We thought that we would provide a sample of what an SOR looks like for a government contractor.

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Security Clearance Investigations

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

We are often asked about the process for security clearance investigations for government contractors and federal employees. There can be many questions for those applying or re-applying for a security clearance.  Our goal is to assist clients in the early stages of the security clearance process because doing so has the potential to alleviate more significant security clearance problems later on.  The following is the usual process involved for a security clearance investigation.   Continue reading

Security Clearance Appeals

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

Security clearance appeals can vary, depending on the federal agency that holds (or is reviewing) the individual’s security clearance.  We represent federal employees and government contractors, nationwide, before all federal agencies with respect to security clearance appeals.

Different Federal Agencies, Different Appeals Procedures

The most frequent federal agency to hear security clearance appeals is the Department of Defense (DoD), which often hears cases through the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoD CAF) and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). We represent federal employees and contractors in clearance matters before this agency (and all others, like DoS, DoI, DoT, DoJ, etc.), along with appeals adjudicated by the Intelligence Community (e.g. NSA, DIA, CIA, NGA, NRO).

It is important to note that while they are governed by the same Executive Order, each federal agency processes security clearance appeals differently. Our firm is versed in the different appeals processes for each agency.  Each federal agency generally provides for an in person (face to face or “personal appearance”) meeting to discuss the security clearance issues at issue either at Step 1 or Step 2 of the appeals process.  We generally recommend that an individual take advantage of this opportunity in responding in person, in addition to responding with a solid written response with exhibits.

Conclusion

If you need assistance in representation in a security clearance matter, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or through our contact page.

 

Clearance Cases Before Intelligence Agencies

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

Our firm represents security clearance holders and applicants before federal intelligence agencies, governed by Intelligence Community Directive 703 and Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 704.2 such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligency Agency (CIA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and others.

Distinctions between Intelligence Agencies

It is important to be aware of the various distinctions between intelligence agencies regarding the differing appeals processes.  We are versed in the different procedures put forth by intelligence agencies regarding security clearance appeals. For instance, the CIA usually provides for a personal appearance at the first step of the clearance appeals procedure, but the NSA provides the personal appearance at the second step of the clearance procedure.

Other distinctions between these intelligence agencies exist for purposes of adjudicating security clearance matters.  For instance, some intelligence agencies place more weight on certain adjudicative guidelines, than others.  It is important to understand the differences.

Conclusion

If your security clearance is held by the intelligence community and you are in need of assistance in the security clearance appeals process, 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 at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.