How to Answer National Security Questions on Counseling

many_ptsdThere’s a belief that many in the military do no seek help for post traumatic stress symptoms because they don’t want to lose their security clearance.

Here’s a solution from Corina Notyce with the Defenses Centers of Excellence – a portion of her article for the Military Health System Blog is below.

The Standard Form 86 “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” Is required.

The government uses the information from this form to conduct background checks and evaluations of those under consideration for a national security position and for those requiring access to classified information. As you complete the form, you’ll need to answer questions about your personal life, including whether you’ve had psychological counseling — Question 21.

Seeking psychological health counseling or treatment won’t automatically impact your ability to obtain or maintain a security clearance.

However, Question 21 still discourages some people from applying for certain jobs or from seeking help.

The Real Warriors Campaign recently published an article, “Security Clearances and Psychological Health Care,” to help you answer questions about your psychological and emotional health history and to debunk myths surrounding Question 21. Here are some things to consider before you fill out the form.

Above all, be honest. Question 21 asks if you have received counseling from a health care professional for an emotional or psychological health concern in the past seven years. There may be some psychological health concerns that can impair the ability to safeguard classified information and hold a clearance. Still, you may be uncertain about whether the counseling you received should be reported. So, how should you respond? It depends on the type of counseling you received.

Respond “No” if the psychological health counseling was strictly related to:

  • Grief, marital or family concerns
  • Adjustments from service in a combat zone
  • Being a victim of sexual assault

Respond “Yes” for any other counseling for an emotional or psychological health concern taking place in the past seven years, along with additional information related to care or treatment received.

Further, the psychological health care counseling you report is protected by privacy rights. Therefore, when a credentialed personnel security investigator contacts your psychological health care provider, they must first ask if you’re coping with a psychological health concern that could impair your judgment, reliability or ability to safeguard classified information. If your provider answers “no,” then no further questions are authorized. If you suspect a privacy violation, report it to the Defense Department Inspector General hotline at 800-424-9098.


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