Tag Archives: security clearance

Self-Referral: Seeking Help Early is a Sign of Strength

Keep What You've Earned

The Navy’s non-disciplinary self-referral process allows you to seek help and remain an active duty Sailor. The intent of a self-referral is to provide you with a means of intervening in the progression of alcohol abuse early enough to get help before a problem becomes more advanced and difficult to resolve without risk of disciplinary action. More information, including contact info for the Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention, (NAAP) office, is available on the NAAP website at https://go.usa.gov/xEejq. Refer to OPNAVINST 5350.4D for details and official policies.

The following list answers some frequently asked questions about self-referral.

What exactly constitutes a self-referral? A self-referral is an event personally initiated by the member. A member may initiate the process by disclosing the nature and extent of their problem to one of the following personnel who is actively employed in their capacity as a qualified self-referral agent: Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor (DAPA); Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Officer- in-Charge, or Command Master Chief (CMDCM)/ Chief of the Boat (COB); Navy Drug and Alcohol Counselor (or intern); Department of Defense medical personnel, including Licensed Independent Practitioner (LIP); Chaplain; or Fleet and Family Support Center Counselor.

When should someone consider self-referring? A member should consider self-referring if they desire counseling and treatment to address potential, suspected, or actual alcohol abuse or misuse.

What could make a self-referral invalid, in which case the member would not be shielded from disciplinary action? To be valid, the self-referral must be made only to one of the qualified self-referral agents listed above; it must be made with the intent of acquiring treatment, should treatment be recommended as a result of the screening process; and there can be no credible evidence of the member’s involvement in an alcohol-related incident (ARI).

What do we mean by “non-disciplinary?” This means that a member may not be disciplined merely for self-referring and participating in the resulting process of screening and treatment, if recommended. It doesn’t mean that a member is necessarily shielded from the possible administrative consequences of treatment failure or the administrative or disciplinary consequences of refusing to participate in treatment recommended by the post-referral screening process.

Does making a self-referral count as an ARI? No.

Will other people know if I self-refer? Yes. The member’s chain of command, and others on a need-to-know basis, will be informed.

Will a self-referral mean that the Navy looks at other parts of my life/job performance? Alcohol use issues are complex, and evaluation and treatment require a holistic view. Relevant information on the member’s work and personal life may be required as part of the screening and treatment processes.

Can I re-enlist if I’ve self-referred? Yes.

What are the levels of alcohol treatment? If treatment is recommended, the command will coordinate with the appropriate SARP facility based on availability, locality, and type of treatment needed. Levels of treatment are: Level 0.5 Early Intervention/ Education Program; Level I Outpatient Treatment; Level II Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization (lOP) and Level III Inpatient Treatment.

Will I lose my security clearance for self-referring? No. Your security clearance may be jeopardized if your screening recommends treatment and you subsequently refuse that treatment.

“I have a clearance…and I stepped up and said ‘hey, I need some help’”

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Submitted by Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign and Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s Every Sailor, Every Day Campaign.

Throughout her 15-year career in the Navy, Intelligence Specialist Chief Amber Nuanez has been a constant source of support and mentorship to her Sailors. Above all of her personal accomplishments, she’s most proud to have contributed to others’ growth and development. Of course, her passion and dedication to her career has not come without sacrifice; particularly when it comes to being able to spend time with her young children despite long hours and deployments.  In the Keep What You’ve Earned (KWYE) campaign’s newest testimonial public service announcement (PSA), Nuanez admits feeling like she’s struggled with work and family life balance. But it’s her commitment to her children and her Sailors that led her to find the courage to seek help when she realized she was struggling with her mental and behavioral health.

Seeking Help vs. Career Concerns

Nuanez was concerned about how reaching out for help could affect her security clearance and ability to maintain her career in the intelligence community. Yet, she pressed forward recognizing that she was the one that now needed support and that help was always available. Nuanez not only sought help for mental health concerns, but a few months later self-referred for alcohol misuse treatment. She got the support she needed, enabling her to be an even stronger source of inspiration for her kids and Sailors. She now serves as both a Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) and Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC) for her current command.

Addressing mental and behavioral health needs is essential to maintaining personal and mission readiness, and your ability to be there for others. However, concerns about career implications may lead to apprehension about seeking help. You may wonder “How will leadership view me afterwards? What about my job or security clearance?” The truth is that there are DoD-level policy protections in place to help prevent negative career impacts for those who seek proactive help. In fact, less than one percent of security clearance denials or revocations involve mental health concerns or behavioral health support. Whether through your local Fleet & Family Support Center, Navy chaplain or medical provider, Military OneSource non-medical counseling or the many other resources available to Sailors and families, seeking help is a sign of strength. Further, it’s an indicator of the good judgment and reliability needed to maintain a security clearance.

Self-Referring for Alcohol Use

The process of proactively seeking help for alcohol use issues in the Navy is called self-referral. If done before an alcohol incident (AI) has occurred, self-referring for alcohol use treatment through your command does not result in disciplinary action. Initiating a self-referral means that a Sailor wants to receive counseling or treatment for alcohol abuse. “That treatment was really awesome because they focus on the ‘why’ of your drinking habits,” Nuanez shared. “If I hadn’t have had the [self-referral] program and SARP [Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program], I don’t know where I’d be.”

To initiate a self-referral and begin your journey to recovery, speak with a qualified agent, such as:

  • Command DAPA
  • Commanding officer, executive officer, officer in charge, command master chief or chief of the boat
  • Navy drug and alcohol counselor or intern
  • DOD medical provider (including a Licensed Independent Provider)
  • Chaplain
  • Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) counselor

1 Small ACT Can Make a Difference

While fear of reaching out can be overwhelming, 1 Small ACT can make a career or life-saving difference. Seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and your Navy career if navigating mental or behavioral health concerns. In addition to the support resources mentioned above, if you or someone you know is in immediate crisis you can reach out to the Military Crisis Line online, by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or by text at 838255.

Help encourage others to reach out for support by sharing this blog post and ISC Nuanez’s Keep What You’ve Earned campaign testimonial video, which will be available on Navy Alcohol Abuse Prevention’s YouTube channel this month. For more resources to help you keep what you’ve earned, visit https://go.usa.gov/xPKzq or download the Pier Pressure mobile application from the App Store or Google Play for access to responsible drinking tools and information on Navy’s self-referral process.

Additionally, you can share the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s latest graphics and posters on seeking help and security clearances, available at https://go.usa.gov/xPKzT.

 

Security Clearances and Mental Health—Part 2: Q21 on SF86

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This article is courtesy of our partners at the Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC) and is the second and final article in HPRC’s series about misunderstandings often connected to the relationship between mental health and security clearances. Keep in mind that the trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, and good judgment of an individual matter more than the simple act of seeking care for mental health issues.

Another common myth is that you may not be granted clearance by answering affirmatively to question 21 on the SF86. In fact, answering, “yes” to question 21 on the SF86 will not automaticallydisqualify you from gaining or retaining an active clearance.

Question 21 on the SF86

There also is a commonly held belief that an affirmative answer to question 21 (Q21) on the SF86 puts you at risk of losing your clearance. Q21 asks, “In the last 7 years, have you consulted with a healthcare professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition or were you hospitalized for such a condition?” Obtaining any type of mental health or psychological care, court-ordered or not, should result in a “yes” answer to this question except if the psychological health counseling was strictly for:

●      Grief, marital, or family concerns not related to violence by you

●      Adjustments from service in a military combat zone

●      Being a victim of sexual assault

Every application for a clearance is reviewed individually, and your response to each question will be taken within the overall context of your personal and professional history. Perhaps you can demonstrate that your diagnosis was mitigated by the mental health treatment you received. This shows good judgment, execution of strategies for improvement, and a better health outcome because of the steps you took. Any adjudication process considers a psychological diagnosis to assess the extent to which the diagnosed condition impairs the applicant’s judgment. There are some profoundly rare instances where operational and security judgment is clearly impaired due to psychological struggles, such as when a person is hallucinating or markedly disconnected from reality.

It’s critical to be honest in your response to Q21. If you respond, “no” to Q21, but interviews conducted through the clearance process suggest otherwise, further inquiry will ensue.

If you respond, “yes” to Q21, an investigator will contact the mental health professional you worked with and assess his or her level of concern with your mental health status. If the professional reports no concern for a defect in your judgment as it relates to maintaining the security of sensitive information, the inquiry into Q21 will end, and the investigator will proceed to review the rest of your application.

The biggest risk you could possibly face in answering, “yes” to Q21 is if your mental health professional reports continued concern about your mental health status, stability, and judgment. Perhaps you discontinued sessions against medical advice or without consulting the professional you worked with. Then the adjudicators might ask you to complete a psychiatric evaluation because they want to make a good judgment call on your abilities to maintain national security secrets. Psychiatric evaluation is rarely requested, but asking an applicant to complete one gives them the information needed to make their decisions.

Truth Matters

Lying in response to Q21 or other questions displays bad judgment. It also can reflect on your trustworthiness, dependability, and reliability—factors that definitely do impact your clearance status. “Honesty is the best policy” when responding to Q21. You will have a chance to clarify if you answer, “yes,” but if you lie and get caught, you’re at greater risk of damaging your clearance status.

Debrief/Bottom Line

In November of 2016, then Director of National Intelligence, James Comey, issued revised instructions for completing Q21 on the SF86 form. The changes shift focus from the act of help seeking to “whether an individual has a condition that may affect his or her eligibility for access to classified information (security clearance) or for eligibility to hold a sensitive position.” While these changes haven’t yet been implemented, it’s a step toward reducing the stigma associated with seeking help for behavioral health. And if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to read part 1 about how good judgment positively affects your clearance status.

References

Defense Human Resources Activity. Welcome to PERSEREC. Retrieved from http://www.dhra.mil/perserec/

U.S. Army Personnel Security. Information on Question 21. Retrieved from http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/site/PerSec/Q21.aspx

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. (2014). Seeking Help is a Sign of Strength: Campaign Plan for Promoting Awareness of the Benefits of Help-seeking and Understanding. Question 21 of Standard Form 86. Retrieved from http://www.dspo.mil/Portals/113/Documents/SF-86-Campaign-Plan-OCT-2014.pdf.

United States Office of Personnel Management, & Director of National Intelligence. (2013). Revised Instructions for Completing Question 21, Standard Form 86, “Questionnaire for National Security Positions”.  Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://nbib.opm.gov/hr-security-personnel/federal-investigations-notices/2013/fin-13-02.pdf.

Security clearances and mental health—Part 1: Judgment matters

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This article is courtesy of our partners at the Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC) and is the first in their series about mental health and security clearances.

One of the biggest reasons Warfighters hesitate to seek professional mental health care is the commonly held misunderstanding that getting such assistance could impact their security clearances. Here are some basics: The existence of a psychological diagnosis or disorder will not automatically disqualify you from getting or retaining a security clearance. Almost no one has lost a clearance for having a behavioral health diagnosis. Of those who have lost clearances, only 0.04% did so for solely psychological reasons. What’s more, the simple act of meeting with a mental health professional or obtaining mental health care will not automatically result in a loss of clearance. The issue of mental health and security clearance is complex, so it’s important to clear up some common misconceptions about how mental health can impact security clearance status.

HPRC provides a series of articles about mental health and security clearances, beginning with this one on how your good judgment favorably affects your clearance status.

Judgment Matters

The real factors that heavily influence clearance status are whether an individual is trustworthy, dependable, reliable, and shows good judgment. Indeed, the vast majority of revoked or denied clearances occur because the applicant demonstrated a history of poor judgment and questionable decision-making. Infractions such as running up a credit card, getting numerous speeding tickets, or drinking and driving negatively impact clearance status much more commonly. The clearest disqualifier is active involvement with illegal drugs, including medical marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level. Drug use and risky behavior, for example, are symptoms of more serious underlying psychological issues that can indeed impact clearance status. Many people incorrectly attribute negative clearance status to the simple act of seeking help instead of poor judgment and behavior.

Seeking help when you face a problem—including a mental health problem—actually demonstrates trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, and good judgment—the very factors being vetted for a security clearance. Being forthcoming about what you experienced and how you dealt with it by obtaining help from a mental health professional shows mental clarity and self-awareness.

Debrief/Bottom line

Warfighters are expected to have the tactical skills and stamina required to perform at consistently high levels in stressful environments. However, even the strongest have moments in life that might require them to call for support. When you’re struggling, it takes courage to admit it and seek help. Doing so means you’re strong, and it means you have good judgment. Calling for support means that you can stay strong and be prepared for your teammates and your family, both of whom depend on you to stay on top of your game.

Obtaining mental health care when you need it demonstrates good judgment that can be favorably evaluated during a security clearance investigation. All Warfighters need maintenance, from time to time, of their physical and psychological health. Don’t let simple misconceptions about a complex process stand in the way of calling for mental health support. Be proud of yourself for seeking help and be candid during the clearance process. You’ll be glad you did.

References

Defense Human Resources Activity. Welcome to PERSEREC. Retrieved from http://www.dhra.mil/perserec/

U.S. Army Personnel Security. Information on Question 21. Retrieved from http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/site/PerSec/Q21.aspx

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. (2014). Seeking Help is a Sign of Strength: Campaign Plan for Promoting Awareness of the Benefits of Help-seeking and Understanding. Question 21 of Standard Form 86. Retrieved from http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/site/PerSec/Q21.aspx

United States Office of Personnel Management, & Director of National Intelligence. (2013). Revised Instructions for Completing Question 21, Standard Form 86, “Questionnaire for National Security Positions”.  Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://nbib.opm.gov/hr-security-personnel/federal-investigations-notices/2013/fin-13-02.pdf

Every Sailor, Every Day Starts with YOU

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September is Navy Suicide Prevention Month. The 21st Century Sailor Office’s Suicide Prevention Branch, OPNAV N171, has the resources you need to get ACTively involved in supporting yourself and others this month and throughout the year. 1 Small ACT will remain the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s primary message, encouraging simple actions that can make differences in others’ lives while leveraging relationships between peers and community members.

Every Sailor, Every Day doesn’t just apply to those in uniform. Research indicates that immediate family members are more likely to notice behavioral changes and stress reactions in Sailors, including those that may be less obvious to peers and leaders. No matter how minor the stress reaction may seem, ACT (Ask, Care, Treat) and start the conversation with your Sailor early to open the door for proactive intervention and support. 1 Small ACT—being there to listen, encouraging use of professional resources, and promoting health and safety at home—can lead to one big step in the right direction.

One of the many reasons service members may not seek help for mental health concerns is fear that doing so will jeopardize their clearance eligibility and careers. You can help spread the truth. Emphasize that less than one percent of security clearance denials and revocations involve psychological health concerns. In fact, seeking help to promote personal wellness and recovery may favorably impact a person’s security clearance eligibility. Remember, counseling and treatment for adjustments related to military service in a combat environment, marital or family concerns (unrelated to violence committed by the service member), grief, and sexual assault victimization do not need to be reported when answering Question 21 on the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF 86). Seeking help is a sign of strength and help exists in many forms, including Fleet and Family Support Centers, the Military Crisis Line, Military One Source and Navy chaplains. Navy chaplains offer 100% confidential support and cannot be compelled by the command, medical professionals or others to disclose what a service member or family member shares in confidence.

During day-to-day conversation, make stress and psychological health an active part of your family’s dialogue. When possible, enjoy a meal together as a family without distraction. Mealtime is an opportunity to bond and engage with loved ones by sharing experiences, offering support and improving communication. Research indicates that sharing meals as a family benefits emotional health and connectedness, and is linked with decreased risk-taking and destructive behavior. Another way to promote health and safety at home is to ensure that privately-owned firearms are stored unloaded, in a locked safe or cabinet and secured with a gunlock. These simple steps can not only help prevent injury among children in the household, but are proven ways to prevent suicide when loved ones are experiencing stress and psychological health concerns, placing them at increased risk.

While suicide prevention is an ongoing effort, this month’s observance is the perfect time to encourage your family to take care of themselves and each other during calm and rough seas. You can set an example by participating in the 1 Small ACT Photo Gallery on our Navy Operational Stress Control Page (www.facebook.com/navstress). Download the new “Small ACT Selfie” sign from www.suicide.navy.mil, personalize it with an example of a small act that you and/or your family can take to make a difference, snap a photo with you and/or your family holding the sign, and email it to us at navysuicideprevention@gmail.com for uploading in the gallery. Like us on Facebook to share your photo—and all of our resources—with your friends and family.

For more resources to navigate stress as a family and be there for every Sailor, every day, bookmark Navy Suicide Prevention’s webpage, subscribe to our blog, like us on and follow us on Twitter.

1 Small ACT can save a life. It starts with you.