How Missing SF86 Information Affects Your Security Clearance Eligibility

Posted by Greg Rinckey

SF86 Missing InformationToo often applicants do not take the completion of the SF86 Questionnaire seriously enough, resulting in detrimental effects later on. Specifically agencies look to the SF86 to determine if you are completely honest about issues and incidents in your background. If you omit required information on the SF86 or mis-characterize a piece of information, agencies are likely to believe that you cannot be trusted.

Some security applicants carelessly complete the SF86, assuming that any errors or unintentional omissions can be corrected during an interview with an investigator. This is only partly true.

Yes you can correct mistakes and provide additional information during an interview with an investigator. If you failed to include relevant information on the SF86 Questionnaire, you may even tell the investigator that the omission was due to oversight and not any willful intention to hide the information from the agency. However the investigator is not the individual who makes the final determination regarding your eligibility for a security clearance.

An adjudicator will read the investigator’s report of investigation and will make the final determination as to whether the omission was deliberate. I am seeing more and more agencies come to the conclusion that omissions of relevant information on the SF86 are deliberate by the security clearance applicant. (This issue is usually compounded by other issues or derogatory information in the applicant’s background.)

Employment Activities

This omission problem can occur in several sections of the SF86 Questionnaire. One section in which omission of information can be problematic is Section 13A, “Employment Activities.” Here you must list the reason that you left employment. You then must answer the following question:

For this employment, have any of the following happened in the last seven years?

  1. Fired, quit after being told you would be fired,
  2. Left by mutual agreement following charges or allegations of misconduct,
  3. Left by mutual agreement following notice of unsatisfactory performance?

This is a straightforward black-and-white question not subject to interpretation. The agency is not interested in what your employment record reflects regarding your termination from a job. For example if you had any of the issues listed in the question but your employment records reflect that you resigned to look for other job opportunities, you cannot leave this question blank. You must accurately describe the nature of the actual problems on the SF86 (if the problem falls under the call of the question).

Police Record

Another section in which omissions can be problematic is Section 22, “Police Record.” Under Section 22.1, there are a series of questions in which you must indicate whether certain conduct occurred in the last seven years. However, the specific instructions under Section 22 are that you must “report information regardless of whether the record in your case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken” from your record.

Applicants who have records that fall into one of these categories and have been told by their criminal defense attorneys that they never have to list these incidents ever again have received incorrect advisements. All too often security clearance applicants do not list required information in this section. Despite the fact that these incidents have been “erased” from their records, there are times that the agencies discover them nonetheless. When this happens the agency will generally assume that the individual was intentionally dishonest when answering this question.

Investigations and Clearance Record

Another section which could be completed improperly if not read correctly is Section 25, “Investigations and Clearance Record.” The question in this section asks “Has the U.S. Government EVER investigated your background and/or granted you a security clearance?” If another agency previously started a background investigation on you but never completed or adjudicated it, you still must list it in this section. This is especially important if an agency started a background investigation on you then “politely” advised you that it was withdrawing the job offer due to concerns discovered in a background check. When an agency uses this method, it is not claiming that you are being denied a security clearance or denied suitability. Such a denial would normally provide you the ability to appeal. Nonetheless, the new agency conducting a background investigation on you will want to know about any such earlier investigation.

Financial Record

The final section in which it is likely for there to be either intentional or unintentional omissions is Section 26, “Financial Record.” This section asks a variety of questions regarding prior and current delinquent financial debts. The first thing you want to do before you complete this section is run your credit report. You should do this even if you are certain you have no delinquent debts on your credit report. There are a variety of reasons which could cause you to be unaware of delinquent debts on your credit report including: identity theft, delinquencies caused by a spouse but unknown to you, unpaid loans for which you co-signed, creditor errors or   errors by the credit repositories (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion).

The agency will run your credit report before your interview with an investigator. You do not want to be caught by surprise during the interview and be advised that there are financial delinquencies reflected in your credit report.

Consult with a security clearance representation attorney if you are not sure how to respond to a question on the SF86.

Greg Rinckey, Tully RinckeyNicole Smith, Tully RinckeyGreg Rinckey, Esq. is the Managing Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, one of the largest federal sector employment law firms in the country. Mr. Rinckey is a recognized leader in the military and federal employment law sectors. Nicole Smith, Esq., a Tully Rinckey PLLC Associate, represents government employees and contractors in a wide range of security clearance matters, to include providing security clearance application assistance and working with clients going through appeals processes for denials, revocations and suspensions. Ms. Smith spent nine years as a national security background investigator.


This entry was posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 10:30 am

14 thoughts on “How Missing SF86 Information Affects Your Security Clearance Eligibility”

  1. For clarification, it won’t necessarily impact your ability to gain employment, but it could impact your eligibility for a security clearance. The fact that the DUI was 10 years ago helps mitigate the issue. However, the agency will want to know the answers to other questions, such as: 1. Were you diagnosed as alcohol dependent?; 2. Do you currently drink? If so, how much do you drink?; and 3. Have you been involved in any other alcohol related incidents, even if you were not charged with any offenses? Your responses to these questions (and possibly several others) will help the agency determine whether or not your use of alcohol may impact your eligibility for a security clearance. This response does not constitute legal advice.

    1. I filled out an Eqip for TSA, will US customs and USSS be able to see previous Eqip when i fill one out for them?

  2. I had my offer rescinded due to a claim that I was a temporary employee and was fired after 8 months. How frustrating is that when you’re being truthful? Since temporary employment, employers can discard you at will, how can I get pass this? How long will this security clearance record be on my background? Why is being fired from a job taken so difficult to get back even as tempts?

    1. Khoi,

      How did your company find out this information from your SF86? Are they able to read your SF86 since it is confidential?

  3. Question 13A.6 states For this employment, in the last seven (7) years have you received a written warning, been officially reprimanded, suspended, or disciplined for misconduct
    in the workplace, such as a violation of security policy?
    I am wondering if this is only security issues or all issues that have nothing to do with security?

  4. If you are terminated from current employment, after submitting the SF-86 and the investigation has begun, will the termination impede the approval of a security clearance?

    1. It should as there is a loss of jurisdiction when you no longer have a sponsor. Normally adjudication will cease.

      1. Understood.

        What happens once a new sponsor is obtained shortly after (approx.within 2 weeks) of termination from previous employer? Will a new SF-86 need to be submitted? Or will the new sponsor take over the current adjudication?

        thank you

        1. Your clearance should be transferred to your new employer assuming it is the same level of clearance. If you are changing from a Secret to Top Secret you will probably need to fill out an eQIP SF86, and it is possible you may have to fill one out when transferring.

  5. I have met with the investigator recently for TS and discussed financial details and employment which is somewhat extensive due to a tough year. I was terminated before I had completed the SF86 but was given a contigient offer by a government contractor assuming the investigation is favorable. I’m concerned because I have a tough time while waiting finding reliable work so have been laid off twice this year and have changed for a better opportunity for one other. Financially I have debt but I have been working with the collectors and other creditors to resolve them. My credit isn’t great but is getting better. I have no history or drug or alcohol use or convictions. Just a stint of bad luck issues lately on top of financial difficulties. What issues will I run into if anything during this process. I have been waiting over a year so I am looking for any feedback to get me through this.

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