In 2012, the Department of Defense released guidance for employees who had concerns regarding how their mental health history could adversely affect their security clearance. This guidance emphasized that the U.S. Government recognizes the vital importance of mental health and advocates the proactive management of mental health conditions to support wellness and recovery.
This guidance further emphasized that an individual’s decision to seek mental health care would not, in and of itself, adversely impact their ability to obtain and maintain a national security position or security clearance. With that said, base leaders at Edwards are reiterating the protections provided for personnel who seek mental healthcare.
“Seeking mental health care may actually reflect favorably on a person’s ability to hold a clearance or national security position,” said Stephen Gerteis, 412th Test Wing Information Protection Office chief. “A decision to seek help is a very positive sign that someone recognizes a problem might exist and they are willing to proactively take steps to resolve it.”
Applicants for security clearances or critical sensitive positions complete the Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, and in question 21 are asked for information regarding psychological and emotional health. This question does not ask for information if the counseling involved only marital, family, or grief counseling, not related to violence by the applicant, unless the treatment was court-ordered, according to Gerteis.
Additionally, question 21 also excludes mental health counseling, strictly related to adjustments from service in a military combat environment.
“If a subject answers ‘Yes’ to SF 86, question 21, only a credentialed personnel security investigator from the investigative service provider may ask the health care practitioner if the applicant under investigation has a condition that could impair their judgment, reliability, or ability to properly safeguard classified national security information,” said Gerteis. “If the practitioner answers ‘No’ to this question, then no further questions are authorized.”
As additional reassurance to all DOD employees, Gerteis added that all information pertaining to mental health treatment shall be handled on a strict need-to-know basis and any misuse of the information is punishable under applicable regulations, policies, and privacy laws.
“Security managers, commanders, or supervisors are prohibited from asking employees for any additional information regarding mental counseling listed on their SF 86,” said Gerteis. “Applicants should report any unauthorized questioning to the DOD Inspector General Hotline number at (800) 424-9098.”
For more information regarding guidance on this topic, contact your unit security manager or the Edwards personnel security office at (661) 277-5441.