Background Investigations

Changes to the Mental Health Question

I’m not aware of any single question on the SF-86 that has been the topic of more debate than Question 21, the Mental Health section of the SF-86. It has received scrutiny from Congress, the US Military, and a host of mental health professionals. In prior versions of the SF-86, clearance applicants were required to list any form of counseling received on their applications. In a more recent update, victims of sexual abuse or post-traumatic stress were not required to list counseling related to those incidents.

An update released by the Director of National Intelligence this month now eliminates the need to list counseling. Period.

The new S21 asks specifically if the respondent has:

  • been declared mentally incompetent by a court or administrative agency
  • been ordered to consult with a mental health professional by a court or administrative agency
  • been hospitalized for a mental health condition
  • been diagnosed by a physician or other health professional with specifically listed diagnoses
  • a mental health or other health condition that substantially adversely affects judgment, reliability and trustworthiness

Read the newly revised S21 here.

What do you think of this change? Is it a step in the right direction? Or should question 21 be eliminated entirely?