Psychologist listens to a patient.

Does Receiving Psychological Health Care Affect Security Clearance?

The Department of Defense wants you to know that getting help for a psychological issue is a sign of strength. Speaking up can be a sign of good judgment, responsible behavior and a commitment to performance.

Eliminating negative stereotypes

Service members, contractors and civilians are often required to have a security clearance, so the department has taken actions to eliminate negative stereotypes about psychological health problems and any impact of treatment on your career.

When someone applies for security clearance, they need to fill out the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions,” Standard Form 86. To protect privacy, and to assure there are no negative repercussions because of treatment or counseling for a psychological health issue, the Department of Defense has made changes to the form.

Question 21 and when to answer “no”

Question 21 of Standard Form 86 asks, "In the last seven years, have you consulted with a health care professional regarding an emotional or mental health condition, or were you hospitalized for such a condition?"

You can answer “no” if:

  • You’ve received counseling strictly related to adjustment from service in combat
  • You’ve received counseling strictly related to marital or family issues (not court ordered or related to violence you have committed), or grief issues
  • You’re a victim of sexual assault who received counseling related to that trauma.

An applicant cannot be denied an interim security clearance solely due to a "yes" to Question 21.

How the Department of Defense protects your privacy

There are more ways that the Department of Defense protects your privacy during security clearance:

  • A security investigator can only ask your health care provider to answer yes or no to the question," Does the person under investigation have a condition that could impair his or her judgment, reliability or ability to properly safeguard classified information?"
  • When the provider's answer is "no," the investigator is not allowed to ask further questions.
  • When the provider's answer is "yes," a security investigator may interview the provider and the applicant confidentially to gather additional information to determine the security risk.
  • Commanders, supervisors and security managers are not authorized to ask an applicant or anyone else about psychological health care revealed in response to Question 21.
  • Applicants may report any unauthorized questioning about psychological health care to the Department of Defense Inspector General Hotline at 800-424-9098.

If you're ready to seek help for any type of psychological or personal issue, you have many counseling service options. Remember, seeking help early to improve your performance is a sign of strength and commitment.

Contact a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 to help you identify the kind of help you need and put you in touch with the right services. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.