Background Investigations

Revision of Mental Health Question on Clearance Application Form

On 18 April 2008 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced that Question #21 regarding mental health on Standard Form 86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions) had been changed. The announcement appears to make the change applicable to everyone (not just DoD personnel) applying for a federal security clearance. The change allows an applicant to answer “no” to the question regarding mental health counseling or treatment, if the counseling or treatment (including hospitalization) was not court-ordered and was for the following reasons:

– strictly marital, family, grief not related to violence by you, or
– strictly related to adjustments from service in a military combat environment.

A “yes” to the question, requires information regarding the dates of treatment, name and address of the health care professional(s) who provided the treatment.

Comment Archive

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    FYI — The DoD’s Military Health System launched “a behavioral health Web portal that will allow service members to anonymously seek mental health treatments for maladies such as combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder…”

    “Users of the portal can log in anonymously…access a variety of multimedia tools to help service personnel conduct personal mental assessments, videos of soldiers who have dealt with related alcohol abuse problems, and checklists for anger, depression and family relationships.”

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    I have been reading some news stories regarding the individual involved in the anthrax probe who killed himself. The stories are questioning how this individual was able to maintain a security clearance even after his social worker indicated the individual had homicidal tendencies and thoughts. One of the news stories I read from NPR on 08/02/08 indicated that:

    “Everyone who gets a security clearance has to fill out the same form, called an SF-86. The form asks whether the applicant has ever been treated for a mental illness and requires the person to let investigators view private medical records.”

    This statement is incorrect. If a SUBJECT answers “Yes” to what we call the Med/Psych question it does not mean we as investigators are able to just go to the doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychatrist listed and ask to look at the SUBJECT’s medical records. We have a protocol to follow and 99% of the time I never see a SUBJECT’s medical record. We ask the first question on the Medical Release Form and depending on the response we go from there.

    Honestly I do not want to look at a SUBJECT’s medical records because I am not trained in the medical field and I have no clue what certain conditions mean and what certain prescriptions are for.

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    OPM finally posted new instructions for Question 21 on the SF86 in Federal Investigations Notice (FIN) 08-01 posted at

    The changed instruction is identical to the one distributed by DoD.

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    regarding question 21…I went through a divorce four years ago. At that time I had my doctor prescribe an antidepressant for me to help deal with the axiety etc.. I only took a few doses, didn’t like the way it felt, and discontinued it. Does this qualify as an exception to the reporting requirement under the marital or family issues portion?