Unstable residency, prior drug usage w/ clearance, financial issues

Good Evening Everyone,

I just accepted a new job that requires for current Secret Clearance to be upgraded to a TS/SCI. I was excited to get the offer but then the panic started to creep in when I thought about the questions I would be asked.

I first received my Secret clearance from the military in 2014. I was honorable medically discharged in 2016 but when I got out I had a terrible time steadying myself. I fell into a deep financial issue with credit accounts going to collections because I did not have expendable cash to pay them off while I was waiting for the school semester to start and get my GI bill payments. During that time I was struggling mentally to find hope because of the 4 - 5 different places I had to stay to live and also sleeping in my car some. I had employment but it was not enough to cover rent, not only that but there was no way that I could be approved to rent anything on my own.

Along with the anxiety and depression that came with that I resorted to smoking weed that I had bought from an old friend. I maybe smoked 3 - 4 times total over the course of a month. Then I told myself that this isn’t right or very adult of me so I quit. What I’m worried about on the SF-86 is the question about using illegal drugs in the possession of a clearance. Was I technically in possession of a clearance if I was already discharged and my clearance was inactive?

All of this was over 3 years ago but even today I’m still struggling financially to obtain an emergency fund and pay off all my collections accounts. I mean ■■■■ I just now finally have all my credit card balances to 0 from that time and have let my taxes be garnished for money I owed on a collection account.

I want to be upfront when I inevitably face my investigator about these problems but I’m worried that it’s just too much of a scar on my history to recover. Plus I’ll lose the ability to obtain a clearance job for a while and in the town I currently live, finding a non-clearanced software dev job is next to impossible.

Any advice would be appreciated.

I think the fact that you have paid your credit card balances down to zero is a big point in your favor. Sounds like you have other debts, but if you are making payments on those that is also good. I guess it will come down to looking at the amount still owed vs your income. If it looks manageable then I think it will be OK, but if you owe $200,000 on a $15,000 annual salary (just to make up some numbers) then it will be more of a concern.

As far as the clearance goes, were you still in the reserves or in any way did you have access to classified information? If not, I would say you did not have a clearance but did retain eligibility. I’ll leave it to the investigators here but in my opinion it should be sufficient to note the drug use within the past seven years.

By the way you say you smoked weed “3 - 4 times total over the course of a month.” Figure out what the total really was and stick to it. Sometimes an investigator will hear something like that and try to see if you are trying to conceal greater usage, and they’ll ask, could it have been ten times? If you say yes just to go along then they may ask was it 20 times? If it was 10 or 20 times then put down 10 or 20, but dont put yourself in a situation where your paperwork says minimal use three years ago, and the report shows more frequent usage that occurred more recently. That looks very bad.

No, when I was discharged I was taken out of the reserve component so I had no access to any army material at all. Other than my GI Bill benefits.

Yes, I have been proactive at passing did my manageable debt, credit cards & non collection bills, but I haven’t been very good at paying back what’s in collections. Financially I see that having an emergency fund, I hear 4-5 months of bills in cash, is much more important but since I’ve only been in the workforce for a bit over two years, it’s been difficult. Every time I manage to save up a couple thousand I had to spend a couple hundred or thousand on an actual emergency. Plus when I first started I was only making 55k for over a year and got bumped to 73k when I threatened to leave but my coworkers tell me I’m still not making enough for how much work I do. The cost of living is also relatively high here and my student loans from before I joined to army are at least $500 a month.

I’ll have to really sit down and think about how many times I did smoke and stick to it.

I want to comment about having a 4 - 5 month financial reserve. In my opinion it is more important to pay debt already owed before building this reserve. I have never had a four to five month reserve in the bank, but I do have excellent credit. Only recently have I been able to build up any kind of “reserve” in savings. Yes, having a reserve makes good fiscal sense. However, not having a reserve will not prevent one from getting a clearance. Having poor credit, even with a reserve in the bank can/will.

Generally I think @tenaheff is correct; but you can always save something, even just $1 or $5 a week or per paycheck to get into the habit of saving. But the overall point is correct, knock down your debt as soon as is practical.