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Director of National Intelligence agrees to reform security clearance questionnaire

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree pushed for changes to protect victims of sexual assault in the military

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today she was glad that James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, has agreed to rewrite part of a security clearance questionnaire relating to mental health counseling. Question 21 on the form asks applicants if they have ever received counseling. Currently, military personnel who have received treatment for combat-related PTSD can answer "no." Pingree asked Clapper to create the same exemption for victims of sexual assault in the military.

"Requiring victims of sexual assault to declare that they've been receiving counseling on this questionnaire discourages them from getting the treatment they need. I'm glad that DNI Clapper has listened to our concerns and has agreed to rewrite Question 21, but I'm going to withhold final judgment until I've seen the new wording," Pingree said.

Pingree talked to Clapper about the issue last month and in a letter to Pingree, hesaid after further internal discussions, he has decided to completely rework the question instead of simply creating another exemption.

Currently Question 21 on Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, reads: "In the last 7 years, have you consulted with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc.) or have you consulted with another health care provider about a mental health related condition?"

"Asking victims of sexual assault to reveal counseling on this form causes a number of problems," Pingree said. "First of all, it can open up further questioning and even an investigation about the assault, which can reopen some painful wounds. But there is an even more significant problem: a lot of the time getting a security clearance is necessary for career advancement in the military. If a victim thinks getting counseling for sexual assault is going to jeopardize that clearance, they're less likely to go out and get the counseling they need."

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