Mental Health Awareness: It’s okay to answer Question 21 

  • Published
  • By DLA Intelligence

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a good time to bring up Question 21 on Standard Form 86, “Questionnaire for National Security Positions,” which federal employees complete for initial or renewed security clearances.

Question 21 asks if you’ve received mental health treatment. It ties into the Psychological Conditions section of the adjudicative guidelines used to help to determine a person's reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information. Many employees fear seeking mental health care could adversely impact their security clearance eligibility. This could not be further from the truth.

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency and the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility are working to destigmatize mental health and dispel the myth that an individual is likely to lose or be denied a clearance after seeking mental health care.

SF-86 states: “Mental health counseling in and of itself is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information or for a sensitive position, suitability or fitness to obtain or retain federal employment, fitness to obtain or retain contract employment, or eligibility for physical or logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems.”
Of 96,850 adjudicative actions that contained psychologically related issues from 2012 through 2020, only 62 clearances were denied or revoked based on mental health. That’s just .00115% – proof it’s rare for an individual to lose a clearance because of a psychological condition.
Voluntarily seeking mental health treatment is seen as a positive step and often mitigates security concerns by showing an individual takes responsibility for their mental health. Not seeking treatment, discontinuing required treatment or not reporting treatment can be a greater concern because it questions a person’s ability to safeguard the nation’s secrets.
Your local DLA Intelligence Personnel Security Office is available to answer questions regarding mental-health reporting requirements and obtaining and maintaining a security clearance.