How to Respond to a Statement of Reasons

Responding to a Security Clearance Statement of Reasons (SOR)

handling security clearance
cases since 2009

A Statement of Reasons (SOR) is a document informing a security clearance applicant or holder that a preliminary decision has been made to deny or revoke a security clearance.

This Article focuses heavily on Department of Defense (DoD) contractor Industrial Security Clearance security clearances.  All governing agencies that issue clearances must have a process that affords the security clearance applicant due process to appeal a security clearance denial or revocation. 

This Article also does not apply to DoD civil service employments or military members.  They follow a different process involving the Personnel Security Adjudications Board (PSAB).

what is the purpose of the statement of reasons?

The Statement of Reasons (SOR) provides the applicant notice that there are specific concerns under the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.  The document also informs the security clearance applicant/holder of his or her rights related to appealing the preliminary determination and gives the applicant/holder a certain amount of time to respond to the SOR and elect whether or not to appeal the preliminary decision.

how much time do i have to respond to a statement of reasons?

When a Statement of Reasons (SOR) is delivered to the applicant/holder, there is normally a receipt that must be signed for the document.  The date of receipt starts the timeframe for the applicant/holder to respond to the SOR.

How much time you have to respond depends on the language in the SOR itself.  Normally, the applicant/holder is given 20 days to respond in writing from the date of receipt.


how do i respond to the statement of reasons?

There are two responses needed to a Statement of Reasons (SOR).  First, the applicant needs to review each factual allegation contained the SOR and either “Admit” or “Deny” each factual allegation, which are normally discretely numbered.  Second, the applicant needs to elect a hearing before a security clearance administrative judge or waive the hearing, having the case decided on the record (documents).  Korody Law always advises clients to elect the hearing before the security clearance administrative judge.

To Admit or Deny?
Admitting or denying a factual allegation contained in the SOR can be as simple as a handwritten “admit” or “deny” next to the factual allegation and returning a copy of the actual SOR document with the hearing election form. For example if a numbered paragraph says, “You were arrested and convicted of a drunk and disorderly conduct in August 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida” and that is exactly true, you can just write “Admit” next to the charge. If nothing about the charge is true, as in you were never convicted of a such an offense anywhere, you can similarly write “Deny” next to the charge.
More recently, I have seen SORs contain partially true allegations, which can make it difficult to respond with either “admit” or “deny.”  Taking the above example, suppose the month or city is wrong, or you were convicted of a different charge, or the case was a civil citation (not a criminal conviction).  DON’T ADMIT to something that is NOT 100% TRUE, because the admission will be used against you by the security clearance administrative judge.  Also, DON’T OUTRIGHT DENY a SOR factual allegation because it is only partially not true.  The best course of action is to concisely respond identifying the issue with the factual allegation.  This shows that you are honest and forthcoming.  Using the above example, you may want to write, “I was arrested and convicted of drunk and disorderly conduct, but it was in September 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.” 

Should I support my SOR response with documents?
There are some security clearance concerns that may be cleared-up by the submission of documentary evidence.  A common example where the submission of documents with the SOR response may resolve the issue is where the applicant tells the security clearance investigator that a debt is paid off but the debt is on the SOR.  It may be beneficial to include the documentation to support to the debt has been paid when responding to the SOR.  However, as a general rule, for ISCR cases, Korody Law does not recommend submitting documentation with a SOR response.   The better practice is to work with the Department Counsel (the attorney who will prosecute the case) to withdraw the SOR and grant the clearance if the documentation is sufficient to overcome the clearance concerns.  This also affords the applicant more time to obtain the necessary documentation to show that the security clearance should be granted.

When should I hire a Security Clearance Lawyer?
I recommend that anyone who receives a Statement of Reasons (SOR) immediately contact a security clearance lawyer.  I will always ask for a copy of the SOR so I can properly provide a free consultation.  I would recommend against hiring any lawyer who does not look at the SOR before quoting a fee for services.  Some SORs are so straightforward that they do not require a lawyer.  Applicants with SORs involving debts should normally use limited financial resources to resolve those debts rather than a pay a lawyer.  I regularly decline cases where I don’t think its I can make a cost-effective difference, or at least I inform the prospective client as much and let him or her decide.  But the first step when you receive a SOR should be to contact an experienced security clearance lawyer.

What else do I need to know?
Security clearance decisions are very fact driven and laser-focused on the concerns outlined in the SOR.  That you are a loyal citizen or good employee is more like icing on a cake in these proceedings.  The good news is that the security clearance hearing process takes many months and often gives the applicant the opportunity to compile the necessary evidence to rebut the concerns or demonstrate a track record of behavior necessary to obtain or retain the clearance.

Attorney Patrick Korody is a former Navy Judge Advocate who handled his first security clearance hearing (and won) in 2009.  He has handled security clearance cases around the country with superior results and has received accolades from security clearance administrative judges and department counsel for his zealous advocacy and case presentation.  He can be reached at (904) 383-7261.


Korody Law, P.A. 118 W. Adams Street, Suite 500, Jacksonville, FL 32202 - (904) 383-7261

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