Federal Security Clearance Lawyer Representing Employees and Contractors Nationwide
National security clearance lawyer Jay Stafford represents government employees, job applicants, and contractors in Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., and nationwide. He handles all types of federal security clearance matters, as well as matters involving background checks and determinations of suitability.
Obtaining federal security clearance can be an invasive and time-consuming process. But, once you receive federal security clearance, keeping your clearance is not guaranteed. The federal government can suspend or revoke employees’ and contractors’ clearances for a variety of different reasons; and, if the government determines you are not suitable for employment, this can put your entire career in jeopardy.
Nationwide Legal Representation for Federal Security Clearance and Related Matters
Our firm provides nationwide legal representation for all federal security clearance and related matters. Contact us today to speak with federal security clearance lawyer Jay Stafford about your needs in any of the following areas:
Security Clearance Applications
All individuals seeking federal employment positions or contracts that require access to sensitive information or restricted facilities are required to obtain a security clearance. This process typically begins with submitting either the Standard Form 86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86) or Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) to the federal government.
Submitting a complete and accurate application is critically important, and it is just the first in a series of steps toward obtaining a national security clearance. Attorney Jay Stafford can walk you through the entire process and help you proactively address any issues that could jeopardize your application.
After you submit your security clearance application, the federal government will conduct a background check (assuming your application meets the basic requirements for security clearance eligibility). How deep this background check goes depends on the level of security clearance you are seeking. In all cases, however, it is important to be prepared and anticipate any potential bars to security clearance the government is likely to uncover.
Along with obtaining adequate security clearance, another key step in the federal employment process is suitability determination. Suitability determinations are position-specific, and factors that may not matter for certain government positions could lead to determinations of unsuitability in others. Broadly speaking, the factors the federal government may consider when making a suitability determination include:
- Misconduct or negligence in employment
- Criminal or dishonest conduct (not employment-related)
- False statements, deception, or fraud made during an examination or appointment
- Refusal to provide testimony in a federal investigation
- Alcohol abuse or illegal use of controlled substances (without evidence of “substantial rehabilitation”)
- Any other “statutory or regulatory bar” to employment in the position in question
Statement of Reasons
Before the federal government denies, suspends, or revokes your security clearance, it must provide you with a Statement of Reasons (SOR). If you have received an SOR, this is your opportunity to protect your security clearance or keep your application for clearance on track. You can submit a written response correcting any mistakes, explaining any apparent issues, denying any allegations against you, and providing any additional evidence that is necessary—and to do this properly, you will want to rely on the advice and representation of an experienced federal security clearance attorney.
Notice of Proposed Indefinite Suspension
If the federal government denies your security clearance application or determines that you should no longer have clearance, it will issue a notice of proposed indefinite suspension. An indefinite suspension means you will be placed “in a temporary status without duties and pay for an indeterminate period of time,” and it is only warranted in three limited circumstances:
- The government “has reasonable cause to believe an employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment could be imposed.”
- The government “has legitimate concerns that an employee’s medical condition makes his continued presence in the workplace dangerous or inappropriate.”
- The federal employee’s “access to classified information has been suspended and the employee must have such access to perform his job.”
If you have received a notice of proposed indefinite suspension, federal security clearance lawyer Jay Stafford can help you fight to avoid having an indefinite suspension imposed; or, if warranted, help you take the steps necessary to end your suspension as soon as possible.
Negative Suitability Determinations
If the federal government determines that you are not suitable for your desired position based on the suitability factors listed above, it will issue a determination of unsuitability. At this point, you should talk to a federal security clearance attorney to make sure you understand why you have been deemed unsuitable for federal employment and whether you have options for challenging the determination.
Suspension of Access to Classified Information
As an alternative to suspending a federal employee’s security clearance, the government may instead suspend an employee’s access to classified information. If your access to classified information has been suspended, you may be entitled to an appeal, and you will want to speak with a federal security clearance attorney promptly.
In some cases, obtaining or protecting federal security clearance or a determination of suitability will involve presenting evidence and arguments at an administrative hearing. This could be a hearing before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), or another federal agency.
Each agency has its own unique set of rules and regulations for administrative hearings; and, as a result, it is important for job applicants, employees, and contractors to hire federal security clearance attorneys who are intimately familiar with the relevant procedures. With well over a decade of experience, national security clearance lawyer, Jay Stafford, provides skilled representation for administrative hearings before all relevant federal agencies.
The Five Basic Steps of the Security Clearance Process
No matter what agency you are hoping to work for, the security clearance process follows five basic steps:
- Pre-investigation. This is the stage where the federal agency determines whether the position you are applying for would require a security clearance. For most workers, this has already been determined by the time they are applying for the job. If the agency has decided you need a security clearance, you will have to complete and submit Standard Form (SF)-86.
- Investigation. Submission of your SF-86 begins the investigation phase. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will conduct a thorough background investigation of the applicant.
- Adjudication. The agency will then decide whether or not to grant your security clearance based on the information gathered during the investigation phase.
- Appeals. If the application is denied, you have the right to appeal the agency’s decision.
- Re-investigation. Depending on your level of security clearance (secret versus top secret) you will need to be re-investigated every 10 or 5 years.
The process sounds straightforward but can become quickly complicated if you have any potential issues in your background. If you are worried about the results of your background check, you should discuss your case with a national security clearance lawyer.
Common Reasons Why Security Clearances Are Denied
In order to obtain a security clearance, applicants must go through a thorough background investigation process. You must take the process very seriously and answer all questions truthfully. Failure to answer or fully disclose certain details can, in some cases, be worse than an admission. And as you are aware, failure to obtain a security clearance may result in you being ineligible for the jobs you want.
Denials are an unpleasant surprise, especially when the denial is based on something that the applicant feels is minor. Something as insignificant as an unpaid parking ticket or traffic citation can result in a denial of your clearance. Security clearances are denied for a wide variety of reasons, including the following:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Sexual misconduct
- Mental health issues
- Conflicts of interest or security violations in prior employment
- Financial issues such as excessive debt
- Unpaid judgments
- Criminal charges
One of the principal issues in reviewing your ability to work in a classified environment is your perceived loyalty to the United States. As a result, failure to disclose dual citizenship, relationships with foreign nationals, or other foreign connections can be problematic when applying for a security clearance.
As difficult as it is to obtain a security clearance, it is important to remember that people who hold clearances must periodically be re-investigated. As a result, any change of circumstances can result in a revocation of clearance, such as sudden financial hardship or a DWI conviction.
Obtaining a security clearance is a lengthy process and denial or revocation of your clearance can have a significant impact on your career. A national security clearance lawyer can provide valuable guidance concerning any potential issues with your clearance and help you answer all questions truthfully in order to protect your career prospects.
When your clearance is denied, you will be provided a “Statement of Reasons” or “SOR” that lays out the reasons why your application was denied. You then have the opportunity to request the records that the government relied upon to make that determination and then provide a reasoned explanation as to why they should reconsider your application. An experienced national security clearance lawyer can help identify mitigating factors that can help get your application approved, including the following:
- Evidence that demonstrates that steps have been taken to address the issue
- The issue was the result of circumstances beyond your control
- The conduct that gave rise to the issue was temporary, infrequent, or happened a very long time ago
- The conduct was humanitarian and was permitted under federal law
Sometimes it is simply a matter of providing some background or context that can help get your application approved.
A National Security Clearance Lawyer Can Help You File an Appeal
There is always an opportunity to appeal if your security clearance application has been denied. However, your right of appeal is extremely time-sensitive. Failing to take the necessary steps to appeal the decision means that your denial will become final. No matter how good your reasons may be for reconsideration, you will have lost all of your rights if you do not take action by the deadline.
The appeal process will depend on the agency you are applying to work for. Military veterans and other types of workers can appeal the decision by formally requesting a hearing before the relevant appeals board or an administrative law judge. In other situations, you may need to respond to a questionnaire from the agency within 20 days of receipt.
If your application has been denied, the best thing you can do is to contact a national security clearance lawyer immediately upon receipt of your denial. They can determine the steps you need to take, guide you through the appeal process, gather the information you need, and represent you should a hearing be necessary.
When You Should Hire a National Security Clearance Lawyer
If you think you may have any issues with obtaining or maintaining your security clearance, the best time to talk to a national security clearance lawyer is before you submit any paperwork to the government. An attorney who has experience with the security clearance process can help you submit a complete and truthful application that helps you minimize potential issues and enhance your chances of success.
Furthermore, making a false statement as part of your security clearance application is a felony. But if you were forthcoming with your lawyer and answered the question based on their advice, you can use this as protection against prosecution.
If you have already submitted your application, it’s never too late to talk to a national security clearance lawyer if you are worried about the outcome, even if you haven’t yet received any determination. That said, you should contact a lawyer immediately if your application has been denied or you have received any sort of indication of adverse action, such as a suspension notice, interrogatories, or a Statement of Reasons.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with National Security Clearance Attorney Jay Stafford
If you need experienced legal representation for a federal security clearance matter or determination of suitability, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. Call 410-514-6099 or send us a message online to schedule an appointment with federal employment lawyer Jay Stafford. We help clients nationwide.