mental health

Mental health screening for full polygraph clearance

Mental health screening for full polygraph clearance
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Mental health has long been a hot topic in the security clearance process, with greater pressure in recent years from federal agencies encouraging applicants to continue to seek proactive mental health treatment. The SF-86 has made positive progress in clarifying how mental health questions are asked, but some applicants are still surprised when a mental health screening becomes part of their security clearance investigation.

A background investigator on the ClearanceJobsBlog says: “I know a guy who had to go for a psychological evaluation after being cleared for many years…they told him part of that was trying to identify disgruntled employees at advance to avoid the next one incident.

This week’s Ask CJ is about a screening that was triggered after a successful full polygraph examination:

I once held a Full Scope license as an entrepreneur and left the licensing world for a few years, but decided to return to the licensed world. I am in processing for another Full Scope as a contractor. I already had the BI and passed the poly on my first try, but now they want me to do a medical/mental health exam. I didn’t have to do this the first time I got permission. Is this something new for an entrepreneur? If not, does anyone know why I should go through this. I have no problem with that, so I’m not worried. I’m just curious why since I didn’t have to do this the first time around.


The Intelligence Community (IC) conducts its own security clearance background investigations and has its own suitability requirements. The original poster could have applied to one of what we traditionally consider a “three-letter” agency (CIA, NSA, etc.). Sean Bigley, former security clearance attorney, notes: “At these agencies, employees and contractors generally go through the same vetting procedures, which include a medical/mental health screening for all positions. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t have been subjected to this last time, but I guess it was because the previous time another agency had held her clearance.


Even though the original poster isn’t worried per se, something may have surfaced that motivated the agency to dive a little deeper and triggered a psychological evaluation. Perhaps this person applied elsewhere but disclosed information during the background check process that raised concerns about their mental health or substance abuse history. Or maybe there was no specific case at all and it’s a standard part of the background polygraph process with that agency.


Sean Bigley notes that there is another potential opportunity to induce a medical/mental health exam, but it may not apply to this legal claim. “That is, an individual might apply for a federal law enforcement position that requires psychological and medical evaluation, even if other applicants for non-law enforcement positions in the same organism would not.”

Mental health screenings shouldn’t be a scary thought or worry that your permission will automatically be denied. Being proactive with your mental health is the best thing you can do for your clearance eligibility. If you meet the physical requirements of the job (if there are any) and have no hidden mental health issues, just consider the assessment a standard part of the process and know that, especially within CI is not necessarily unusual.

Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic who loves all things digital, communications, promotions and events. She has over 8 years with the DoD, supporting multiple contractors with recruiting strategy, staff augmentation, marketing and communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Favorite Hike: The Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Favorite social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸

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