SF86 and Psychological Interview

This is long and kind of personal - so sorry in advance. I had a conditional job offer at a three-letter agency, passed the poly and all of the background investigation was complete but I was ultimately denied employment and my case was closed. I requested a reason and received the answer that I was not forthcoming about my psychological background. Here is what happened, SF86 asked if I have consulted with a mental health professional in the past 7 years I answered “yes” because I had a nurse practioner overseeing my medication. The meds are treating an anxiety/depression disorder due to a prolonged period of childhood sexual assaults from age six to 14. What upsets me about answering honestly is that in my psychological interview, the woman asked me questions about counseling and counselors I saw over 10 and 20 years ago and any other counseling that I received even those it was clear in the SF86 that they were out of scope. Also I couldn’t even remember their names, let alone addresses, etc. - that is the only thing that could have been considered ‘not forthcoming’. For instance, I had marital counseling fand had to have a test for psychological purposes when I had bariatric surgery, but both were over 7 years ago. My question is this, should I have answered NO, since the whole reason I have this issue is due to childhood abuse and my parents forcing me into this situation repeatedly (longer story)? Are the psychological examiners allowed to ask about things that are way outside the timeline and scope in question 21 on the SF86 form? Unfortunately, I am finding my career options and promotional opportunities severely limited due to my working in the federal government in cyber-security - i.e. competitive / promotional opportunities are secret and top secret. The “closed case”/“not forthcoming” determination took over a year of my life and the psychological examiners lost my paperwork (had to re-send it). To have to repeat / re-live this experience to satisfy some sadistic bureaucrat’s checklist makes me want to go into another whole line of work, but I earned my technical degree and cyber-security certifications by my own hard work and studying.

  • Interview 9/2017
  • CJO 11/2017
  • Background investigation and interview start 3/2018
  • Background follow up and report 6/2018
  • Poly and Psych 7/2018 - passed poly
  • 11/2018 Hired at another agency for Cyber-security position - Public Trust
  • Call to send “missing” paperwork again 12/2018
  • Letter closing my case 3/2019
  • Reply to my query - not forthcoming on psychological background 4/2019
  • Promotional potential positions in fed gov’t - Secret or Top Secret - not sure whether to apply

Thanks for any advice.

What is especially upsetting about this story is that the latest SF-86 doesnt even ask about past mental health treatment anymore. I had to fill out an eQIP sometime in the past year or so and as I recall, it only asks about any current treatment you may be undergoing.

When applying for three letter and most government agencies there are actually two processes in one suitability and security. The SF86 is for the security process.

The psychological interview is part of the suitability process and has different standards and a different scope.

The good news is that it sounds like you weren’t denied a clearance

If it is suitability, did they tell you that you can re-apply in 365 days? If so I would compile a complete psychological history of all counselings…to include the marital part. I know marital is excluded. In my case I was prescribed meds to help me come to terms with a surprise divorce I did not see coming. Prior to being prescribed meds…I knowingly and wrongly used someone’s meds (followed the label). After about 10 days I realized I needed these meds and went to the doctor, and had the support of a counselor. The polygrapher explained revealing the marital counseling supports the mitigation of the painful divorce…henceforth, it is on every SF86. I don’t technically need it…but I report it.

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You have to report past mental health treatment, but only under certain conditions. We are no longer in the business of chasing down your primary care physician who gave you two weeks antidepressants medication for a short-time issue (thankfully!!).

See: https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/press-releases-2013/item/828-director-of-national-intelligence-issues-new-security-clearance-guidance.

As a survivor of sexual assault, you should not be required to reveal this information. Also, the martial counseling is not reportable (assuming you did not commit violence act(s)).

I am mindful that some agencies do not use the current version of SF-86, and I am not going to speculate which SF-86 you may have used. Nonetheless, this is surprising and I would have challenged that assertion.

This is especially since SF-86 makes it clear that Section 21 mental health counseling, in itself, will not be used to make suitability determination:
“Mental health counseling in and of itself is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information or for a sensitive position, suitability or fitness to obtain or retain Federal employment, fitness to obtain or retain contract employment, or eligibility for physical or logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems.”

This is based on the verbiage of the current SF-86.

@backgdinvestigator, am assuming that you meant within last 7-year. Rather than outside that window?

@amberbunny, with suitability denial, usually you can apply immediately rather than wait a year. The only thing I can think of is disbarment… in that case, which will be no longer than 3 years (see https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/5/731.204). This is only applicable to Title 5 organizations which OPM has the original jurisdiction in deciding on that. As for some IC agencies such as Title 10 organizations… that usually rests with the agency. Also, not all IC agencies are Title 10 organizations.

If I were the OP, I would not compile those mental health records. Instead, I would answer no to question no 21 based on the information provided as martial counseling (w/ no violence acts by applicant) and sexual assault being exempted from reporting requirement. I would also challenge the agency’s assertion by getting a clearance attorney.

There are a couple ‘ever’ mental health questions, but they are not the casual mental health treatment.

No, you do not report every mental health treatment within the last seven years. That changed with the current SF86 (2016).

Are most agencies using the new form? I would be in the clear with the 2016 version (I must have had to fill out an older version or a variation).

I am not sure how to answer the question, but I can say that… it is not unusual for agencies requiring Tier 5 investigation not to use the current form. Some agencies requiring only Tier 3 investigation do not use the current form too.

True, my client uses the 2008 form. And I am grateful. I am a fan of explaining potential hiccups. I will stand by that to not be charged with quibbling “the meaning of “is” so to speak”. If things are clearly well outside the reporting requirements I MAY think about not speaking to them but even then I would say “Its well outside the 10 years, but…” I want to be the one to bring stuff up. Like I explained earlier on marital counseling, not required but I bring it up every time now as it supports the other concerns, and poly recommended it.

The refusal to use the updated forms is one of the excuses used to refuse reciprocity. The newest forms meet the current requirements as set out by the people that own the security process.


I have a question that fits along this line. I was sent a form from my company. I have to submit it to my Doctor. It basically has them check yes or no if my condition would prevent me from handling classified information. I have 20 days to return it to the adjudicators in order to get my clearance. Has that changed any or is that you wrote about in the previous post?

Very strange that a company would ask you to do that. The medical release form is standard when submitting the e-QIP and is used by the investigative service provider if needed. It is not the applicant’s responsibility to go seek out their doctor to have it filled out and returned. I suspect this is not a part of a BI, but more of a employment vetting process.

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It is exactly what I thought but the return address is Fort Meade.

Maybe as part of the medical part?

I have had employees on this contract get a mailed “request for info” from an investigator regarding a coworker. Sounds like it is an effort to collect as efficiently as possible, and takes something off the investigator. But if your doctor is a close friend…would they possibly say “no problems,” when in fact they have concerns? Possible.

I talked to an investigator today. He happened to be at the hospital where I was at today for other isssues. The investigator took time to answer my question. Basically the comment was this is a one off event.

What about the question asking about hospitalization? What if that occured when you were 12yrs old?

If there is no time frame asked in the question or given in the direction, you list it.