Security Clearance Concerns – Alcohol Consumption and Drug Involvement

Posted on Sep 01, 2014 By Ronald C. Sykstus

Ronald SykstusThis is my second  installment of a two part blog series on security clearance concerns. These blogs discuss the most common issues as they relate to security clearance issues.

This blog post deals with alcohol consumption and drug involvement.  Guidelines G and H of DOD Directive 5220.6 deal with these concerns.  The specific guidelines are as follows:  Guideline G, Sections 21 and 22 and Guideline H, Sections 24 and 25.

Unfortunately, addiction to drugs and alcohol is rampant throughout our country.  The government explores these aspects of a person’s life in reviewing whether to give or revoke a security clearance.  In light of the fact that clearance reviews have changed to now be random and continuous, security clearance applicants would be well-advised to know how the government views alcohol consumption and drug involvement.   This is a dramatic change from the previous review that occurred every five years for a top-secret clearance and every 10 years for a secret clearance.

The questions that appear on the SF 86 that give rise to the potential clearance issue under these concerns are as follows:

Section 23 of the SF 86 Form – Illegal Use of Drugs and Drug Activity

Section 24 of the SF 86 Form – Use of Alcohol

Fortunately, all is not lost with regard to a security clearance as the government directive allows an individual to take affirmative steps to deal with his or her alcohol and/or drug issues. Specifically, guidelines G and H allows for conditions that could mitigate security clearance concerns.

Guideline G, Section 23

Guideline H, Section 26

Security clearance applicants are fortunate that the mitigating factors in both guideline G and H acknowledge that individuals sometimes do run into drug and/or alcohol issues. In my experience, it is critical for an applicant to acknowledge and recognize the problem and take any and all affirmative steps to address the behavior and the issues. It is my experience that it is best if a security clearance applicant addresses his or her alcohol and/or drug issues through a treatment facility and then does whatever he or she needs to do in order to ensure that this is a long-term change of life. Many times, if a person goes through extended treatment or sober living to correct his or her issues, that is strong  evidence  to the people who make the decisions regarding the granting of a clearance.

The side benefit of a long-term approach to put alcohol and/or drug issues in remission is that it is also undoubtedly better for the applicant’s personal life and the applicant’s family. As an example, if I am defending someone who is losing his or her clearance and we are presenting a case before a judge, I would much prefer to have an applicant who is gone through treatment and then some type of extended treatment to include extended care, sober living and continual and recurrent attendance at a recognized twelve-step program such as AA. Again, this is not only good evidence to present to a judge to show that a person is earnest about correcting his or her problems, it will have a wonderful ancillary benefit for the applicant  and his or her family just in their day to day lives.

I have been handling these cases for several years. I am available for a consultation if you need help in this area.

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