Questions About Filling Out the Personnel Security Questionnaire?

When you apply for any type of security clearance, the government will begin a thorough background investigation into your personal history. Typically, the investigation is limited to the last 10 years of your life. The purpose of the investigation is to determine how suitable you may be as an employee and whether you should be allowed to view classified information.

At the Washington, D.C., security clearance law firm of Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., we are available to assist applicants with all stages of the security clearance process, from obtaining your initial clearance to maintaining your clearance status. Our lawyers have over 40 years of experience in this area of law, and we can help you understand what your rights are and what is expected of you.

The Written Application/Questionnaire

The first step in getting a security clearance involves filling out the Personnel Security Questionnaire. This may be done with a printed form, called the Standard Form ("SF") 86. Or, more likely, it will involve answering questions online, using the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing, or eQIP (pronounced "Equip"). The level of clearance granted will be Confidential, Secret or Top Secret.

A person who obtains a Top Secret clearance may also be eligible to have access to Special Access Programs ("SAP") involving Sensitive Compartmented Information or SCI. This access does not require completing an additional form and is based on the person's "need to know."

The questionnaire requires you to give information about:

  • Where you have lived over the past 10 years
  • Your employment history
  • Your personal and family history
  • Criminal history
  • Credit history
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Mental health history and treatment received
  • Foreign travel and contacts

It is critical to answer these questions accurately. You cannot "fudge" on answers to these questions in the hope that you can clarify later. Responding incorrectly on the security form will result in a charge of "falsification" which can be more damaging than if the individual had answered honestly in the first place. For example, a candidate may fear disclosing that he or she has been to a psychologist, in the mistaken belief that this will disqualify him or her from getting a clearance. In truth, this alone is not a disqualifier, but answering falsely on the form will likely result in the denial of the clearance.

Another form, the SF-85 or 85P is used for Public Trust positions that do not require access to classified information. These are positions that involve access to government databases, Social Security numbers, financial information, and/or other information not available to the general public. Nevertheless, it involves responding to most of the same questions that are posed on the eQIP.

Contact a Highly Experienced Security Clearance Law Firm Serving Washington and Beyond

If you are concerned that answers on the security form may be damaging to your eligibility for a clearance, seek the advice of an experienced attorney before you complete the form. At Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., we are ready to assist you. Call 202.331.9260 or contact our law firm online.