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Appealing denial of a security clearance

If you have recently received a Letter of Intent (LOI) from the Department of Defense or State, it means that your security clearance request is being considered for denial. It hasn’t been formally denied yet, but the groundwork is being laid to do that.

It is important that you act immediately to address the concerns raised. Once a full denial has been issued, it is very difficult to apply for clearance again. The process is involved and complicated, but it can be navigated successfully with the help of a professional who has experience in the process.

Intent to deny eligibility

The first indication that you are in the process of being denied clearance comes from the LOI. It is not a formal denial, but the notification that your request for clearance is being considered for denial. There is not much information in this standard letter, other than to warn you.

It does mean that a formal process for denial has started. You need to respond as quickly as possible, as you only have 20 days to file a rebuttal.

Many requests for clearance are denied in their first attempt. If there is anything on your report that the agency you applied through simply wants more information on, this is the process for requesting it.

Statement of Reasons

Along with the LOI, or shortly afterwards, you should receive the Statement of Reasons for Denial (SOR). This is the detailed description of exactly what caused your request for clearance to be denied.

Use this for your guide to crafting your rebuttal. Each item should be addressed as clearly and specifically as possible.

Documentation is vital for rebutting the statement of reasons. This is the stage where a professional such as an attorney experienced in security clearances can make the most difference.

Administrative hearing

When you respond to the SOR, you can request an administrative hearing  with an administrative law judge. This is always advised, especially with representation. It will be scheduled approximately eight weeks from the date the request is received at the nearest federal building.

This hearing is something like a court case, where you will be asked to present evidence to support your case. An attorney representing the agency you applied for clearance with will present the reasons for the LOI, and you will have a chance to rebut them in person.


If you are formally denied your request for clearance, you can still appeal. This can only be done on technical points, so it is extremely difficult. It is important that your application not reach this point, as very few denials are overturned on appeal.

In all cases, if you have received the LOI you need to act quickly. The process ahead is complex and moves very quickly. Representation is always advised in order to secure a security clearance after the LOI has been issued.

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