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How does mental health affect your security clearance?

Obtaining security clearance is not an easy task, and you may have worked hard to reach your level of clearance. This allows you access to jobs and situations where national security may be at risk, so it is essential that you demonstrate trustworthiness and good decision-making skills to your employer. Whether you are a military service member or a civilian working for another government agency, maintaining your clearance is critical to your career and future advancement.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, you may be concerned about how this will affect your security clearance. It is important to know that you have rights, and you may wish to seek guidance and assistance if you fear your employer or a security investigator is violating your rights because of your mental health issues.

Common mental health issues

The risk many face who suffer with mental health issues is that they will refuse to seek help or treatment if they fear it will jeopardize their security clearance. Most everyone struggles with some kind of psychological or emotional problems at some time, and they can benefit from counseling. In many cases, receiving this type of mental health care within the last seven years will not interfere with your security clearance.

The following situations should have no bearing on your clearance:

  • You sought counseling in the past seven years after a trauma related to sexual assault.
  • You participated in therapy or counseling for issues in your marriage or family that did not involve accusations that you committed domestic violence and were not court ordered.
  • You received grief counseling after the loss of a loved one.
  • Your counseling stemmed from combat trauma or difficulties adjusting after serving in combat.

When asked if you have received counseling or hospitalization for a mental or emotional health condition within the last seven years, you may answer no if your care included only the above situations.

What can they ask me?

Your mental health is vital to national security, so it is vital that investigators have a good sense of your reliability, stability and good judgment. However, the protection of your privacy is also essential. Department of Defense investigators may ask limited questions of your health care provider, and your supervisor has no authority to question you or your doctor about your mental health.

In many cases, if your mental health issue is well controlled through counseling or medication, it should have no bearing on your security clearance. If the DOD has denied or revoked your security clearance, you may benefit from seeking legal counsel from a Virginia attorney to learn about your options.

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