Obtaining Security Clearance

When a Clearance Was Granted Despite the Applicant Lying About Cocaine Use

Most of the case examples highlighted on this site are clearance denials upheld by the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA). Here is a good example of a case where the applicant had issues concerning recent cocaine and then lying about it, but was able to mitigate the issues and be granted eligibility for a clearance. Here are the particulars:

The applicant, a former Navy E-5, left the service after several deployments to hostile fire zones and suffered from PTSD. From September 2012 to January 2013 he decided to use cocaine to self-medicate in order to alleviate depression (effects of PTSD). In April 2013 he sought help from a psychiatrist and was given prescription medication that helped him control his anxiety. He subsequently submitted a security clearance application in May 2013, but omitted all information regarding his illegal drug use, and then did not disclose it during the initial interview with the background investigator. It was not until a follow up interview that he confessed to using cocaine. Based on this information he was denied a clearance and rightfully so.

So how did he manage to get a favorable clearance decision from DOHA? In his appeal he provided all of the mitigating factor information that could be applied to the issues of illegal drug use and personal conduct (falsification). The psychiatrist provided a favorable prognosis; the applicant provided a plausible reason for his falsification and drug use, as well as a statement of intent to never use illegal drugs; character references were provided by a variety of reputable sources; and current supervisor and co-workers all provided stellar performance reports and indicated confidence and trust in the applicant. In other words, the applicant checked all the mitigating criteria that enabled the DOHA judge to consider the “whole person” concept, resolve the issues at hand, and grant the clearance.


  1. Hello, I got favorable for clearance in October, what does this mean? I finished my CI interview in July, is this mean am going to start my work soon?

  2. Marco . . . My SOR was all financial issues but I used the same method to come out on top of my hearing. I went through the guidelines and reviewed the ALL of the mitigating factors for each of the financial issues charged. I decided which could apply and which not. Then I researched and documented each item on the SOR in terms of the applicable mitigating factors.

    It helped that I am pretty good writer. I elected to have my hearing on the written record instead of sitting across the table from a government lawyer. This way the government was required to layout their reasoning and then I got reply with cross-examination. In the FORM, the government did not directly address any potential mitigating factors which allowed me to have the only word on the subject.

  3. Good to hear it worked out for you. Knowledge gives one the ability to present the facts not otherwise seen on face value.