What Are Your Chances of Winning a Security Clearance Appeal? Not Good in 2018
The Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals has started 2018 off with a bang in hearing twenty-four appeal cases, of which twenty-two clearance denial decisions were upheld, one denial decision reversed to clearance granted, and one case remanded back to the original adjudicator for a procedural review. As has historically been the case, financial issues continue to dominate all other categories. Common themes contributing to unsuccessful appeals were applicants’ attempts to try and introduce new information showing they have taken steps to address or pay off delinquent debts after the initial clearance denial. This after-the fact approach does not work. The DOHA appeals judge considers only the information that was presented in the initial denial and if there were any procedural errors committed.
Another strategy used by applicants was to try and insinuate the judge who made the initial decision to deny the clearance didn’t consider all of the mitigating information available or didn’t apply it correctly in accordance with adjudicative guidelines. This approach is sort of like telling a doctor he didn’t take other symptoms into consideration before making a diagnosis. Not surprisingly, this strategy does not sway the opinion of the appeal judge as it is not necessary for the judge to write every single mitigating circumstance in his decision analysis, but rather it is presumed that they have made the decision based on all available information using the “whole person” concept to evaluate the honesty, integrity and trustworthiness of the applicant while erring on the side of national security when doubts remain.