Can mental health counseling ruin your security clearance?a

28 Jan 2008 | Lance Cpl. Brian Lewis

A Marine’s security clearance can be an important aspect of their career. It allows them to keep the job they have, and may open opportunities in civilian markets.

 People endure many levels of stress and can suffer from it in today’s world of choice and change. Many service members ignore mental health assistance due to fear of career stigma and risks, such as maintaining a security clearance. This fear begs the question, “Can I lose my security clearance if I seek mental health assistance?”

 The answer is, not at all. The main concern listed in the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information memorandum is that certain emotional, mental and personality conditions can impair judgment, reliability or trustworthiness.

 “Whether or not access is suspended is up to the Commanding Officer,” said Jo Ann Bolton, Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Washington, D.C. “That is generally not done just because someone seeks counseling.”

 Security clearance is handled separately from security access. Clearance is the level of security access you are allowed, such as being able to view classified materials.

 Security access is only allowed if the person’s job requires it.

 Security access can be taken if the commanding officer deems necessary, while security clearance is reviewed by the Department of the Navy, Central Adjudicative Facility, said Thomas J. Langlois, command security manager, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

 “As far as mental health, a competent medical official must first interview the person,” said Langlois. “If they have concerns about the individual, I will send a discrepancy report off.”

 A clearance could be removed following a diagnosis from a duly qualified mental health professional suggesting it, but the initial attempt to begin counseling will not reflect the person in a negative manner.

 “We may request an evaluation be done to answer some specific questions we have,” said Bolton. “Voluntarily seeking mental health counseling is actually viewed as a positive and would be seen as mitigating information.”

 Conditions that may raise risk of your security clearance consist of behavior that leaves concern in an individual’s character, an examination by a duly qualified mental health professional stating negative assessment or an individual failing to follow suggested treatment.

 If the person is demonstrating good behavior with any treatment suggested, attends counseling, and is listed as ‘under control’ by a health professional, the patient’s clearance will not be at risk.

 “Two percent of denied and revoked clearances were due to mental health issues in fiscal year ’07,” Bolton said.

 Patients wishing to combat mental health issues with counseling are highly encouraged to seek the help and should not worry about losing any of their privileges, said Bolton.

 For additional information, contact the unit security manager.