Security Clearance and Suitability

A security clearance is a privilege, not a right, and the government can seek to deny or revoke your clearance for many reasons. The road to obtaining a security clearance is an arduous one, and if any questions are raised about criminal incidents, substance use and abuse, medical or psychological issues, financial problems, foreign influence, or a number of other areas of concern, the government may attempt to deny you a clearance. This often means the loss of a job in the national security field. Having an experienced advocate on your side at any stage of the clearance process can help alleviate potential problems and make the best case possible against the denial of your clearance.

LaLuzerne & Smith is one of the only law firms in the region with the knowledge and experience to handle your security clearance concerns. Whether you are an applicant for a security clearance who needs help navigating the maze of the SF-85 or SF-86, have received a Statement of Reasons (SOR) letter threatening denial or revocation of your clearance, have an upcoming hearing before an administrative law judge, or are in need of an attorney to draft a brief for an appeal of an unfavorable decision before an administrative law judge at the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), Attorney Brian Smith is dedicated to assisting you with this oftentimes confusing and intimidating process.  Having experience as both the applicant and representing applicants for security clearances, Mr. Smith has a deep knowledge of the complexity of the industrial security clearance system and the frustration and confusion that often comes with going through the application process.

  • SF-85/86 review and consultation
    • Denial or loss of a security clearance can be fatal to a career in national security. Problems can often arise from seemingly innocuous mistakes, omissions, or misstatements as early as information entered into the SF-85/86 forms, so it is important to get things right from the start. Talking with an attorney with experience with these forms can help craft the best application that avoids problems with investigators down the road.

  • Statement of Reasons (SOR) or Letters of Interrogatory (LOI) responses
    • As a clearance applicant or clearance holder, receiving a Statement of Reasons is a frightening proposition. You have a limited period of time to address the government’s concerns about your continued holding of a clearance. You may be able to mitigate these concerns and avoid further threat to your clearance by acquiring information about the alleged problems and having a well-drafted, focused response to the SOR. Frequently, a potential denial or revocation can be short-circuited at this stage. Even if a hearing becomes necessary, a thorough SOR response is a strong foundation for presenting your best case to the judge.

    • A Letter of Interrogatory is often an intermediate step prior to issuing an SOR. This will often seek clarification about issues of concern that arise from a security form or personal interview that require further answers before the agency decides whether to clear or deny someone. 
  • Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) hearings
    • Hearings before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals require preparation of both yourself and the witnesses you will need to present your best possible case. You will need to provide medical, financial, or court documentation and have an attorney who understands how to combine the documentary and testimonial evidence in the most effective manner before a judge.

  • Board of Appeals briefs
    • If you have received an unfavorable ruling before a hearing judge, you may want to present a written brief to the Board of Appeals to highlight any procedural or factual errors made in your hearing. We can review the case file, hearing transcript, and judge’s decision to help you determine if you have a likelihood of success on appeal. If you do choose to move forward with an appeal, we will already be familiar with your case, which helps limit the overall time and costs of the appeal.

  • Reapplication for clearance after denial or revocation
    • Once you have had a clearance denied or revoked, you must wait one year before reapplying and you must have permission to reapply. We can help with the reapplication process to improve your chances of being granted permission to reapply and to remedy or mitigate any roadblocks to a future award of a security clearance.

  • Suitability
    • Suitability is governed by federal law (5 C.F.R. 731), and determine whether an individual is fit to work for that particular employer. Suitability concerns often overlap with security clearance concerns, but not always perfectly. Different federal agencies consider individual suitability factors with different levels of concern.
    • Although suitability denials may or may not have appeal rights, a suitability concern only relates to the particular agency you apply to, and does not bar you from applying to other agencies. A suitability denial can lead to a bar from being considered from that employer for up to 3 years.
    • If you receive a Notice of Proposed Action or similar letter expressing concerns about your suitability for employment, you should be prepared to respond in writing with documentation to address the concerns. Our attorneys are experienced in responding to suitability concerns and can help you put forth the best possible case to resolve the concerns before a denial is issued.