Security Clearance Process

Benefits of an In-Person or Online Appeal for a Security Clearance Denial

The security clearance appeal process is where an individual is allowed to present their case via document response or in person with counsel if they choose, along with other witnesses and exhibits. Pre-pandemic, almost all federal agencies held security clearance appeal proceedings in person. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) held courtroom proceedings with administrative judges. The Department of Energy (DOE) held less formal court-like proceedings with administrative judges. Other federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), often held personal appearances before a designated decision-maker.

Since the start of the pandemic, the appeals process did not stop, but was forced to adapt slightly to give applicants due process.  DOHA followed CDC protocol and still held many cases in person in courtrooms, but also began to experiment with online hearings. Also, for the first time, some Intelligence Community agencies began to allow applicants select the option of telephonic hearings but also offered in-person personal appearances.

The general consensus among security clearance professionals is that online hearing processes were useful for many applicants, and it definitely helped in some cases where they were located in remote areas. It was also helpful in cases where credibility was not at issue and there were a reasonable number of documents and exhibits to be presented. However, where an individual is accused of being dishonest or where large number of documents are needed, online hearings were not as useful and appealing in-person is the preferred method.  Decision-makers tend to get a better evaluation of an individual when they are facing them directly, as opposed to observing them online. Complicated cases are also harder to present online, and applicants should appeal in person. Going forward DOHA will likely move to a hybrid model, with some cases going completely online and others being held in person.


  1. What does it matter since most people lose anyway.

  2. While it may be true that most people lose their appeals, many do win… so it is worth the effort.

    Plus I am still not clear if the in-person appearance is only an option if you are appealing the response to the SOR. That is, your clearance was denied but you were given a chance to reply to the Statement of Reasons; if that is denied, you then have an appeal. Is that correct? Can you also present your response to the SOR in person?

    I think most people do the response to the SOR in writing, but some choose to present their appeal in person if it gets to that point.