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Will your mental illness jeopardize your security clearance?

Whether you serve in the military or do contract work for the government, your security clearance is an important part of your ability to move forward in your career. Having a security clearance allows you access to exclusive locations such as secret areas where the government houses classified information. The higher your clearance level, the more trust the government places in you and the better your chances for rewarding and lucrative jobs.

Qualifying for a security clearance means receiving extensive training and passing severe background checks. If you are pursuing a job that requires a security clearance, you may have concerns, especially if you have a mental or emotional health issue. Do these types of illnesses disqualify you from obtaining a security clearance?

When do mental health issues affect your eligibility?

The U.S. government investigates numerous areas of eligibility when considering someone for a security clearance. One of these guidelines is psychological conditions. Understandably, the government cannot place classified information in the hands of someone whose behavior is unpredictable, so a mental health screening is included in the clearance process.

Experts will question and evaluate your mental health during the screening. However, having mental health issues or seeking treatment for mental or psychological disorders will not automatically eliminate you from consideration. Some factors that may result in denial or loss of a security clearance include these:

  • Experiencing symptoms that could jeopardize classified information despite medication or other treatment
  • Receiving, at the government's request, a consultation from a mental health expert whose opinion supports the danger of relapse into symptoms that may jeopardize classified information
  • Providing insufficient evidence or documentation of treatment for a diagnosed mental illness or other issues
  • Continuing to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to seek treatment or follow up with mental health professionals for a revised diagnosis

In fact, the Department of Defense encourages those with mental illness not to be afraid to seek treatment. Often, applicants with mental or psychological conditions are granted a security clearance if their symptoms are controlled by counseling or medication following a diagnosis by a qualified doctor or other professional.

Your options if denied a security clearance

On the other hand, the government may deny access to someone who has no diagnosis of mental illness yet allegedly displays irresponsible, irrational or dangerous behavior. If your security clearance is denied due to a mental or psychological condition you believe is well controlled, those who evaluated your case may have overstepped their legal bounds. You may benefit from seeking assistance from a Virginia attorney whose practice includes assisting those pursuing a security clearance.  

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