Suitability Denial Questions

I am in the midst of the suitability and security clearance process for a competitive foreign service position.

I just received a termination of candidacy from the HR final review panel and I intend to appeal, so I have two questions.

  1. My previous employer made negative comments about me including incorrectly stating that I resigned suddenly and didn’t provide two weeks notice. Former employer now is willing to correct this and try to take back the negative comments - what is the most effective way for them to do this?

  2. I disclosed in SF-86 and my interview that I am a recovering alcoholic. Suitability letter says that my reported sobriety is “too recent” to mitigate my behavior, which includes one disturbing the peace ticket during a college party 4 years ago… I have 27 months sober and no relapses.

Are there objective guidelines for how much sobriety time is required? Medical clearance cleared me once I passed 24 months sober.

Thank you.

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I assume this is for the State Department, which sets certain criteria that have to be met specifically for placement into foreign service positions. The reason for this is the limited support in the host country, the potential for a foreign intelligence service to use information or potential issues against you, and the high stress environment. I advise you to look under the mitigating factors found at this site for information on how to appeal:

In your rejection notice you should have received instructions on how to appeal the decision. After gathering your materials, make sure you submit everything together. Submitting the files separately and the Review Panel may reach a decision before all the info is in, which could hurt your chances.

Question: were you questioned about these issues prior to a suitability rejection or did it come out of the blue?

Marko thank you for your response, that is very helpful.

Falstaff - I was not questioned about the employer negative comments before with my investigation interview or otherwise. Pretty much out of the blue.

For the AA issue and disturbing the peace incident, I was questioned about this, and had a chance to submit some writing to show insight into my wrongdoing. In my appeal I am planning to include a letter from my sponsor and healthcare provider corroborating my sobriety but I’m not sure how to further mitigate a one-time legal infraction of disturbing the peace. I will submit all the materials together.

My letter from HR also incorrectly stated that I was “arrested” for disturbing the peace when I was only ticketed. Does that matter?

Thank you again.

  1. A signed statement from your former employer retracting his comments should be enough.

  2. The alcoholism bit is trickier. The Foreign Service is a breeding ground for alcoholics (high salary, loneliness, legal impunity), and those who have shown a tendency towards alcoholism in the past are particularly vulnerable.

By all means, submit your sponsor’s note and add a personal addendum demonstrating that you are able to endure stressful situations without resorting to drink.

Just my opinion. I’m definitely not an expert.

Any updates Z?

Hi Falstaff,

I am putting together an appeal that includes letters from: my AA sponsor, my psychiatrist, my former employer, my academic advisor from undergraduate, and a long letter from myself. All the letters are unqualified support and the employer letter had a full retraction of negative comments.

I’ll send this in this week and wait for a response. Thanks for checking in, will let you know.

What happened with your appeal?

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I, too, was a victim of unfortunate remarks made by co-workers and supervisors, from a menial job at which I had worked while in school. I lacked the advantage of being aware of those remarks.

Hi Z,

Just wondering how it went with the appeal? Also applying for FS (consular position) and just received a letter being found as unsuitable since I took a trip to Cuba that “could have violated sanctions in force at the time”.
I can appeal and submit evidence of the trip not violating Cuba sanctions, but any advice and input on how your appeal went would be helpful.
My background investigation was sent to review Dec 2017 and just got the letter a few days ago (Jan 2020) so it is hard to believe I wasn’t borderline suitable if they took so long to make a decision. Ultimately I see it as I don’t lose anything for trying to appeal at this point but also feeling a bit blind on the best way to approach a suitability determination appeal.