All educational information provided on the SF 85 is supposed to be verified:
GENERAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT OPM BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS
Why is detailed information about my education required?
Educational history is necessary for jobs that require specific
education and expertise. Any information supplied by the applicant
must be verified.
In my experience with the federal government, background checks are
sometimes carried out by OPM, and sometimes by the hiring Agency (and
probably, sometimes as a combination of the two).
No doubt there is some variability in how thoroughly the checks are
carried out, especially given that the Sf 85 is used for a wide
variety of job positions with greater and lesser degrees of
sensitivity, or need for complete background investigations.
And of course, it's a crime to knowingly enter misleading information on the forms.
I trust this is the information you're looking for, but if there's
anything else I can do for you, just let me know.
All the best,
Request for Answer Clarification by
28 Oct 2006 20:11 PDT
Thanks very much for your response and the link to that web page
titled: "GENERAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT OPM BACKGROUND
My friend who received the SF85 despite the education lies was
investigated by the OPM, not a consulting agency. Just to convey all
the facts, the investigation took place in late 2001. The web page you
linked to is dated May 2002.
The web page you cited states that "Educational history is necessary
for jobs that require specific education and expertise. Any
information supplied by the applicant must be verified."
Is that true even for the lowest level of security clearance, the
SF85? And, does that mean that all pieces of education related
information, even attendance dates, are verified? Also, per my
original question, what is the OPM's "method for confirming, or not
confirming, academic degrees"?
I just learned from my brother about a couple of other people who
reportedly lied about their education history on the SF85, were
investigated by OPM, and got the SF85 clearance anyway. So, what is
the exact procedure the OPM executes (their method) for dealing with
the education section of the SF85 application?
Concerning the SF86, which is a little different from the SF85, I read
the following in a security personnel newsletter found on
?If certain issues are developed during the conduct of the field-work
portion of any reinvestigation, OPM will automatically expand the
investigation to include reference, residence and education coverage.
The cost [to the agency] to expand once the investigation has begun is
in addition to the basic cost, and the additional charge will be
billed at the time the investigation is expanded.
So, the above text is actually in reference to a reinvestigation, and
a different clearance (the SF86), but the text suggests that OPM does
not always investigate education information. Perhaps they only
investigate education information if they get a red flag answer in
response to one of the important questions about previous criminal
activity, nationality, etc.
Clarification of Answer by
29 Oct 2006 05:25 PST
Interesting question, and I was able to find some additional
information on the topic that -- while not painting a complete picture
-- at least offers some additional detail
OPM uses a variety of standard forms for background investigations, as
detailed in the notice in the Federal Register:
Comment Request for Revision of Expiring Information Collections
There are five forms that are generally used:
General Request for Investigative Information (INV 40)
Investigative Request for Employment Data and Supervisor Information (INV 41)
Investigative Request for Personal Information (INV 42)
Investigative Request for Educational Registrar and Dean of Students
Record Data (INV 43)
Investigative Request for Law Enforcement Data (INV 44)
Note that INV 43 is the form for verifying educational data.
OPM is required by law to estimate the paperwork burden of their
information requests, and apparently, the INV 43 form is not used as
often as the other forms:
Approximately 460,000 INV 40 inquiries are sent to Federal and
nonfederal agencies annually. The INV 40 takes approximately five
minutes to complete. The estimated annual burden is 38,300 hours.
Approximately 1,300,000 INV 41 inquiries are sent to past and present
employers and supervisors. The INV 41 takes approximately five minutes
to complete. The estimated annual burden is 108,300 hours.
Approximately 980,000 INV 42 inquiries are sent to individuals
annually. The INV 42 takes approximately five minutes to complete. The
estimated annual burden is 81,700 hours.
Approximately 261,000 INV 43 inquiries are sent to educational
institutions annually. The INV 43 takes approximately five minutes to
complete. The estimated annual burden is 21,750 hours.
Approximately 1,000,000 INV 44 inquiries are sent to law enforcement
agencies annually. The INV 44 takes approximately five minutes to
complete. The estimated annual burden is 83,300 hours.
As you can see, the Education form -- although used more than a
quarter of a million times during the year -- is the least frequently
used of the five forms.
It's hard to know exactly what to make of this. On the one hand, it
may mean that OPM is selective in its use of the form, and does not
provide 100% verification of educational backgrounds. On the other
hand, it may simply mean that applicants tend to have more complex job
histories and personal histories than they do education histories, and
it thus takes more forms for the former than for the latter.
Some other OPM materials regarding so-called "Diploma Mills" (people
getting degrees through the mail from dubious 'colleges'), certainly
suggest that they are out to verify all claims of academic attendance
and achievement, but there weren't any specifics as to the process
I looked for copies of the actual forms used by OPM, but they don't
seem to be available online. Note, though, that OPM estimates it only
takes five minutes to complete the form, so it does not appear as if
the verification process is all that deep -- probably just attendance,
degree, grade point average, and perhaps dates.
One last thought, though. Your friend was hired late in 2001, at a
time when the government was just beginning to react to the post-9/11
world. I imagine background investigations are a much more serious
matter these days, then they were prior to 9/11.
Hopefully, this is enough information on the process to give you some
additional insight into how the system works, even in he absence of
Let me know if there's anything more I can do for you on this.
Request for Answer Clarification by
30 Oct 2006 09:39 PST
Thanks for the additional research! I have some information to add
(this is not a request for you to clarify anything).
From https://dssaots.dss.mil/psapdf/psalesson3.pdf (intended for staff
who perform the investigations)
A National Agency Check and Inquiries Investigation (NACI) is requested on all
low risk positions. The NACI consists of an NAC, written inquiries, and record
searches covering specific areas (i.e., employment, education, residence, law
enforcement, and character references) of a subject's background during the most
recent 5 years
The NACI/ANACI is conducted by OPM using written inquiries. The period
of investigation is the last five years of the subject's life. In
addition to the valid NAC, the elements shown below represent minimum
OPM will verify, by written inquiry, all employment in the last five
years, regardless of duration. In addition, OPM will send a written
inquiry about any involuntary termination, regardless of when it
EMPLOYMENT REFERENCE COVERAGE.
OPM will send a written inquiry to the listed supervisor of each
employment for the last five years.
All attendance at colleges and universities for the last five years
will be verified by written inquiry. Additionally, OPM will verify all
claimed degrees for the last 20 years.
The OFI 43 is the Investigative Request for Educational Registrar and
Dean of Students Record Data. This form is sent to each college or
university subject has attended within the period of investigation
(POI). It is also used to verify any claimed degrees regardless of
whether they were earned in the POI
LISTED CHARACTER REFERENCES.
Written inquiries are sent to all listed references.
LOCAL AGENCY CHECKS (LACS).
Written inquiries will be sent to law enforcement agencies at all
places of employment, residence and education for the last five years.
Additional inquiries will be sent to obtain the dispositions of all
arrests developed, regardless of when they occurred.
OPM will schedule checks of credit bureaus any place subject has
lived, worked, or gone to school for the last five years. The ANACI
will contain copies of all credit reports which were obtained.
Additional investigation will be conducted as necessary to resolve any
employment suitability issues which are raised
by the NACI. OPM will not usually resolve security issues.
Clarification of Answer by
30 Oct 2006 10:04 PST
Thanks for posting that additional information. The military seems to
have a slightly different vocabulary for these things than the rest of
the federal government, but you did a good job in unearthing it.
All the best,