Secret clearance and my student loan


I’m being considered for a technical job with a secret clearance. I’m concerned because I’m two months late on my student loan payment. I’m 7 months away from defaulting, so that’s not an issue. My wife has gone through VERY expensive cancer treatments this past year, but the loan people don’t even take that into account. I’m also consulting a student loan attorney about getting my monthly loan amount down. Otherwise, I have no criminal record, good credit, and stable home life. Do you think my loan issue would keep me from getting this clearance?


Understand that the clearance process is going to take longer than seven months, so you are at risk of being in default by the time they are looking at you closely.

The key thing here is that you are doing something about the debt, not just ignoring it. Remember, these are usually government backed loans. If you default, the same government that you want a clearance from is on the hook for the debt. They take student loans very seriously. Get it taken care of ASAP. Restructure it, pay it up to date, borrow from another source to pay it off. Whatever you need to do.


Is forebearance an option? Forebearance (at least with my own loan provider) resolves delinquency and gives you some breathing room where interest will accrue but you don’t have to pay the loan. It’s only for 2-3 months per request (I believe for up to a total of 12 months) but it has helped save me there for a bit.

Another option that someone I knew went with showed me was consolidating loans and then switching to an Income Based Repayment plan. I would recommend at least trying to see how much money per month that also saves you, it personally saved me a lot on my own monthly payments.

To answer your question: financial issues have been the number one killer in security clearance applications by a large margin. I definitely would recommend doing at least something about it, whatever it is you choose to do. Your student loan attorney will be able to help you explore those options as well. Like Ed said, this process will take longer than seven months, so planning for the future is important here.


The ibrp (income based repayment plan) is exactly for situations like this. Deferment also. Make sure you do your adminstative remedies before seeking counsel. A little research goes a long way and most importantly… saves money!

Good luck


here is a good article on the subject:

One thing you will need to do is be careful when you follow the attorney. The chance is that the attorney is not also a security clearance attorney.


I spoke with the guy in D.C. doing the security, and I was told this particular process will take between one and two months - certainly not seven months like what was suggested elsewhere. Not sure the reason for the time discrepancy; it’s just what they told me. Maybe they’re ramming it through faster or something.

Good news on the student loan front - per a phone call I had with them, I should be able to restructure my student loan repayment amount to something I can at least afford for a few months until the clearance goes through. So my loan will show “up to date” or something like that. One more concern off my plate.

Lastly, I was in and out of the navy once years ago - 21 to be exact. I was only in for seven months, tested positive for pot, and was discharged with OTH. Dumb, dumb, dumb on my part in more ways than one. Young and stupid. And I was NOT a regular drug user; it was a one-time failure to cope with a bad situation. Well, I moved on, went into a new career, got married, had children, and am now living the American dream in the suburbs. I know that for some issues for a Secret Clearance they only go back 10 years - but for discharges, I imagine that they go back to infinity?


They go back to infinity. You will discuss your marijuana use and the “OTH” discharge during a subject interview. To your favor, both of these are a long time ago.


If your OTH and drug use occurred 9+ years ago - they are both a non-issue as long as there has been no recent similar conduct.


Whew - that’s a big load off my mind. A lot can happen in 20+ years, and I was hoping that a mistake made in the navy way back then wouldn’t be counted against me now. I’ll be setting up a new payment plan with my student loan tomorrow, so I think I may be good. No other issues that I can foresee.Thanks.