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Security Clearances and COVID-19 — Adjustments, Cautions and Advice

Current as of Nov. 3, 2021

These have been challenging times in many ways for individuals and families. Many are facing financial hardship because of lost wages or changes in their living situation. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, you may have the added stress of worrying about your security status.

A history of financial problems is a common reason to deny or revoke a person’s security clearance, but financial difficulty due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic should not affect your security status. The U.S. government has deemed COVID-19 to be beyond anyone’s control. Any financial fallout from the pandemic is considered a mitigating factor in determining security status. Still, it’s important to be upfront about any financial problems you are having, take steps to resolve them and know the resources available to assist you.

How financial stability affects security clearance

The Department of Defense Consolidation Adjudications Facility weighs a number of factors when evaluating a person’s eligibility to access classified information. Among these is a person’s financial history. Without background information, CAF may regard financial problems as an indication of poor self-control, a lack of judgement or a disregard for rules and regulations. All of these raise a person’s security risk.

Financial red flags include unexplained wealth, excessive gambling and illegal activity, such as embezzling or expense account fraud. CAF will also look for:

  • Unpaid debts resulting in collections
  • Liens
  • Failure to file state or federal taxes
  • Living beyond one’s own means

CAF will look at the circumstances surrounding these issues to determine whether they are true indicators of security risk. And while it will consider COVID-19 a mitigating factor, it will not automatically excuse bad debt or other financial issues that predate the pandemic.

Steps to improve financial health and protect clearances

It’s important to be upfront about any financial difficulties you’re facing, even if they are a direct result of the pandemic. CAF will look for evidence that you have acted responsibly and taken steps to resolve the problem.

If you have fallen behind on your bills, do the following as soon as possible:

  • Inform your security management office of your financial hardships.
  • Contact your creditors and come up with a plan to repay your debts.
  • Document all information.
  • Maintain open and honest communication with your supervisors.

In reviewing your situation, CAF will look at whether you:

  • Reported the information voluntarily
  • Responded truthfully and completely to questions
  • Sought assistance and followed professional guidance, where appropriate
  • Resolved or are likely to resolve the security concern
  • Demonstrated positive changes in behavior

CAF may request more information while reviewing your status. It will grant 30-day extensions for your response during the pandemic. Responses must be received within 30 days after the pandemic ends.

Finding help for financial problems

Taking control of your finances doesn’t mean going it alone. Help is available through the following resources:

  • Military relief societies. Each branch of the armed forces has its own emergency financial relief organization. These may provide interest-free loans, grants or a combination of loans and grants.
  • H.E.R.O.E.S Care. This program works with mental health providers, employment assistance programs and national organizations that provide emergency financial aid to get military families the help they need directly in the communities where they live.
  • Operation Homefront. This organization helps military families during difficult financial times. It provides food assistance, auto and home repair and more.
  • American Red Cross. The Red Cross provides confidential referrals to local, state and national resources through their network of chapters across the United States.
  • Personal financial managers. You have access to personal financial counseling services on your installation. Set up a no-cost appointment at your nearest Family Center.
  • Military OneSource financial counseling. A financial counselor can refer you to services and programs that meet your specific needs. Your financial counselor can also coach you on setting up a payment plan with creditors and more. This service is free for service members and their families.

These are challenging times and CAF wants to work with you. Be sure to let your security management office know about financial difficulty you may be experiencing and take the proper steps to resolve your issues. Remember, help is available to regain control of your finances and protect your security status.

To learn more about COVID-19, Military OneSource maintains a special website section with information for service members and military families. Military OneSource is committed to providing up-to-date information and answers regarding the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on our military community.

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