Information on Question 21

Many Soldiers expressed an unwillingness to participate in behavioral or psychological health programs based on the perception that a ‘Yes’ answer to the behavioral health question (Q21) on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Standard Form 86 (SF86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions would lead to denial, suspension or possible loss of a security clearance.

Executive Order 12968, Access to Classified Information ,states behavioral health counseling in and of itself is not a reason to revoke or deny a security clearance.  Seeking support to address behavioral health issues demonstrates inner strength and embodies the Warrior Ethos.  Professional behavioral health counseling is not a threat to an individual’s security clearance; rather it can be a positive factor in the security clearance process.

CCF’s adjudicative history indicates that 99.98 percent of cases with psychological concerns obtained/retained their security clearance eligibility.  Most cases that resulted in a denial or revocation had other issues in addition to psychological concerns.

The current policy provides both adjudicators and commanders flexibility to allow individuals undergoing counseling to maintain their security clearance.  Leadership must make it a priority to educate Soldiers, civilians, contractors and their family members that acting responsibly with regard to seeking behavioral health counseling  is a positive course of action and  in and of itself will not result in the denial, loss or suspension of a security clearance.

Ultimately, the well being and safety of our Soldiers, civilians and contractors, especially those in the demobilization process, is of great concern, and they must not be discouraged from seeking assistance.

Communication from leaders is key.  Army personnel and their family members need to know that the chain of command, fellow Soldiers and coworkers will support the decision of Soldiers to seek the proper help for both behavioral health and financial concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions- Question 21
  1. If I seek mental health counseling or treatment, how will it affect the decision on whether to grant or renew my security clearance?
    Mental health counseling and treatment in and of itself is NOT a reason to deny or revoke your security clearance. Your decision to seek counseling or treatment is viewed as a positive sign that you recognize a problem exists and are willing to take steps towards resolving it.  Early intervention is often a key to successful resolution. On the other hand, letting personal problems grow until your behavior endangers security may lead to a negative decision on your clearance.

  2. Does it make a difference if I enter counseling or treatment voluntarily, without it being required by a supervisor or court?
    Yes. Voluntarily seeking help is a definite plus in the later decision by personnel security officials regarding keeping or losing your security clearance. The fact that you have voluntarily sought counseling or treatment for a mental health problem does not suggest that your problem is more serious than someone who has not. Instead, it shows that you are aware of the problem and are trying to deal with it. This voluntary action is considered positive evidence of reliability and a willingness to fulfill personnel security responsibilities.

  3. What specific types of counseling or treatment by a mental health professional do I NOT have to report on the SF86?
    1. strictly for a marital, family, or grief issue not related to violence by you, or
    2. strictly related to adjustments from service in a military combat environment.

  4. If I have received counseling or treatment from a mental health professional (such as a counselor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist) for reasons other than the exclusions listed in Question 3, what happens when I am investigated or reinvestigated for my security clearance?
    You will have to report the counseling or treatment on your personnel security questionnaire (the SF86). During an interview the background investigator will ask standard questions about your mental health counseling or treatment. When the investigation results are later reviewed to make a security clearance decision, the fact that you voluntarily sought professional help will be a significant positive factor in the decision.

DISCLAIMER: The appearance of non-government information does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Army
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