By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
Alcohol usage can be a major issue with gaining or keeping security clearances held by Federal employees and contractors. Such determinations arise under Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, contained within the Adjudicative Guidelines. Guideline G is the portion of the Guidelines involving an applicant’s use of alcohol and it’s impact on an individual’s ability to obtain or maintain a security clearance.
Guideline G issues usually come into play when a Federal employee or contractor has issues regarding the use of alcohol. The obvious concern by a Federal agency and the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) is that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the exercise of questionable judgment or the failure to control impulses, both of which are not considered not to be good for the purposes of access to classified information.
LEGAL ISSUES TO BE REVIEWED BY DOHA/PSAB IN ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION CASES
When issues arise involving alcohol use/consumption, in the scope of a security clearance examination or review, it is very important to take them seriously and to obtain legal counsel familiar with these types of issues in order to minimize the potential damage to a security clearance. When alcohol issues are reviewed in regards to security clearances cases, they fall under Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, which reads as follows:
Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption
The Concern. Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to the exercise of questionable judgment or the failure to control impulses, and can raise questions about an individual's reliability and trustworthiness. Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include: (a) alcohol-related incidents away from work, such as driving while under the influence, fighting, child or spouse abuse, disturbing the peace, or other incidents of concern, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed as an alcohol abuser or alcohol dependent; (b) alcohol-related incidents at work, such as reporting for work or duty in an intoxicated or impaired condition, or drinking on the job, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed as an alcohol abuser or alcohol dependent; (c) habitual or binge consumption of alcohol to the point of impaired judgment, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed as an alcohol abuser or alcohol dependent; (d) diagnosis by a duly qualified medical professional (e.g., physician, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist) of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence; (e) evaluation of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence by a licensed clinical social worker who is a staff member of a recognized alcohol treatment program; (f) relapse after diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence and completion of an alcohol rehabilitation program; (g) failure to follow any court order regarding alcohol education, evaluation, treatment, or abstinence.
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include: (a) so much time has passed, or the behavior was so infrequent, or it happened under such unusual circumstances that it is unlikely to recur or does not cast doubt on the individual's current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment; (b) the individual acknowledges his or her alcoholism or issues of alcohol abuse, provides evidence of actions taken to overcome this problem, and has established a pattern of abstinence (if alcohol dependent) or responsible use (if an alcohol abuser); (c) the individual is a current employee who is participating in a counseling or treatment program, has no history of previous treatment and relapse, and is making satisfactory progress; (d) the individual has successfully completed inpatient or outpatient counseling or rehabilitation along with any required aftercare, has demonstrated a clear and established pattern of modified consumption or abstinence in accordance with treatment recommendations, such as participation in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar organization and has received a favorable prognosis by a duly qualified medical professional or a licensed clinical social worker who is a staff member of a recognized alcohol treatment program.
TIPS IN HANDLING SECURITY CLEARANCE CASES INVOLVING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
In security clearance cases involving Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, it is very important to understand just how critical it is to demonstrate that the Federal employee or contractor involved understands (and is able to admit where appropriate) the alcohol issues that they face (or have faced) and have taken action to seek help or obtain guidance. The best strategy for success in these types of alcohol cases (ex. prior arrest for alcohol traffic incidents) is to show that the applicant has handled the issues in a responsible manner and that enough time has transpired to mitigate the security concerns associated with the perceived or actual alcohol usage.
Alcohol consumption cases can involve many differing types of variables and a number of mitigating factors specific to each case so hiring counsel to represent and advise the person involved is critical because each case is different.