Q & A Session: Obtaining a Security Clearance—It’s All in the Details



I have maintained my security clearance for over 10 years. I was recently hired for a position which required a Top Secret/SCI clearance. About five years ago, I had some back pain while visiting a friend’s home. I was offered a pain reliever and I took it. I found out afterwards that the pain reliever was prescription. This only happened one time. When asked on my SF-86 clearance form if I had ever taken prescription medicine without a prescription, I was unsure of how to answer, so I said no. I disclosed what happened in my interview, though. There are no other issues in question. Do I have a chance to obtain a clearance still?


You do still have a chance to obtain a clearance, but how good that chance is depends on the details. If the facts are as innocuous as you describe, then I do not believe that the one-time inadvertent consumption of the prescription medicine will be an issue. What could be an issue is your inaccurate reply on the SF-86 form. Your failure to provide a truthful and candid answer to that question may result in an unfavorable clearance decision.

Disqualifying conditions may include the deliberate omission, concealment or falsification of relevant facts on the SF-86. An applicant could mitigate security concerns by making a prompt, good faith effort to correct the SF-86 before being confronted with the facts. Therefore, if you were confused or unsure how to respond to the question, and you were immediately candid with the interview, the security concerns may be mitigated and you could be granted a clearance.

This response is written by Michael S. Causey, associate attorney of Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C., a federal employment law firm.

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