Lying about Government Credit Card Debt Leads to Removal

This Dept. of Veterans Affairs employee filled out a background investigation form but provided inaccurate answers to certain questions. She was fired and the MSPB and a federal court upheld her removal.

An information technology specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs was unable to convince the federal appeals court to overturn her removal that stemmed from giving inaccurate information on a background investigation questionnaire. (Daniels v. Department of Veterans Affairs, C.A.F.C. No. 2008-3065 (nonprecedential), 5/7/08) The facts are taken from the court’s opinion.

As an Army reservist, Daniels ran up debt on her government-issued credit card to the tune of more than $2,700. Her boss advised Daniels to pay the balance to avoid an indefinite suspension of her security clearance. She failed to pay and the clearance was revoked and suspended indefinitely. (Opinion p. 2)

After this, Daniels went to work for the VA in Nashville, Tennessee, and was required twice to fill out a Standard Form 85P for a background investigation—one by her agency and one by the Office of Personnel Management. On both of those form she answered “no” to questions involving whether she had ever had a clearance denied, suspended or revoked, and whether she was delinquent on any financial obligations. (p. 2)

Sure enough, the background investigation turned up the problem with Daniels’ bad government credit card debt as well as the previous suspension and revocation of her security clearance with the Army reserves. The end result was Daniels’ removal for “failure to provide accurate information” on the background questionnaires.

Daniels appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Following a hearing, the Administrative Judge found that the agency had proved that Daniels provided incorrect information on the Standard Form relating to her previous security clearance and her bad debts. The AJ concluded the removal was reasonable. (p. 5)

Daniels took her case to the Federal Circuit, but she fared no better there. The court sided with the findings of the AJ and sustained Daniels’ removal. (pp. 6-8)

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.