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Delinquent student loan debt is a major concern that could negatively impact your security clearance if you do not take action to resolve it. Delinquent student loan debt in relation to national security clearance is governed under Guideline F, Financial Considerations in the Security Executive Agency Directive 4 (SEAD 4). Under Guideline F, the government may have security concerns related to financial irresponsibility if you have student loan debt that is in default. However, a recent preliminary settlement in a major predatory lending class action lawsuit for student loans includes approximately six (6) billion dollars in cancellation of student loan debt for approximately 200,000 class members.
The main concern with delinquent student loans revolves around the inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts. This can also include a history of not meeting financial obligations, which essentially casts doubt on the individuals’ honesty, reliability, trustworthiness and judgment. When it comes to these student loan debts, the majority of them are quite large in dollar amounts and raise red flags for security clearance adjudicators. However, one of the main mitigating conditions under Guideline F is related to conditions beyond the person’s control, including any victimization by predatory lending practices. Therefore, the question that must be asked is, “Does cancellation of your student loan debt resolve the government’s security clearance concerns?” In short, it typically does, depending on the circumstances.
In a recent case, Sweet v. Cardona, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), alleging that claims for loan cancellation, also known as Borrower Defense Applications, had been disregarded by the DOE. This is based upon applications for students who claim to have been defrauded by their schools to their detriment. At a recent hearing on August 4, 2022, the Judge granted preliminary approval for a proposed settlement. The final court approval, currently scheduled to be heard in November 2022, would see the immediate cancellation of six (6) billion dollars for over 200,000 class members. This immediate cancellation would only be for certain schools, but if the cancellations occur, this would have major mitigating circumstances for security clearance holders that find themselves delinquent on student loan debt.
As previously mentioned, one of the mitigating conditions under Guideline F is if you dispute the debt or if you were a victim of predatory lending practices. The settlement in Sweet v. Cardona specifically touches on both of these mitigating conditions, as the crux of the arguments in this class action lawsuit was due to students being defrauded by their colleges. The complete cancellation of student debt would wipe out any obligation the students have to pay the student loans, and any negative marks on their credit reports would be removed. This would very likely mitigate any potential concern the government would have under Guideline F related to delinquent student loans.
It is always important to stay on top of your finances in order to avoid the potential windfalls of financial considerations allegations that could negatively impact one’s security clearance. However, this recent settlement decision, if fully approved, will be a strong argument for the mitigation of any potential concerns related to delinquent student loan debt.
Ryan C. Nerney, Esq. is a Managing Partner in the Ladera Ranch office of Tully Rinckey PLLC, where he focuses his practice primarily on national security law, with experience in federal employment and military matters. Ryan represents clients who have security clearance issues against agencies such as the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOD, NRO, and DOE. He has represented numerous clients in security clearance revocation proceedings and has a proven record of saving clients’ jobs, as well as anticipating and resolving potential future issues with their security clearances. Ryan currently serves as Secretary for the National Security Lawyers Association (NSLA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (888)-529-4543.