49°Clear

Legal Insider: The Statement of Reasons Leading to Security Clearance Determinations

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John V. Berry and Kimberly H. Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America in Reston that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Many individuals come to us when they receive a document referred to as a Statement of Reasons (SOR) which federal agencies issue to individuals when considering the denial of their security clearance. A SOR can be issued to federal employees or government contractors currently holding or seeking a security clearance.

What is a Statement of Reasons?

A SOR lists the factual basis for potentially denying an individual’s security clearance. The SOR will list individual security concerns and provide the individual an ability to formally respond.

Typically, a federal agency will issue the SOR to the individual following the development of a security clearance concern. Subsequently, this security concern will be reviewed by the federal agency’s security office and either be cleared or proceed formally through the clearance adjudication process.

The SOR is the key document to analyze when attempting to avoid an adverse security clearance decision. For federal employees, agencies will generally attach the SOR to a cover letter that references the agency’s intent to revoke eligibility for the employees’ security clearance and provide it directly to the employee. For government contractors, the government will typically issue the SOR through the employer’s security officer.

The following is an example of a SOR issued for a federal employee based on personal conduct:

STATEMENT OF REASONS

Guideline E, Personal Conduct: Conduct involving questionable judgment, lack of candor, dishonesty, or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness, and ability to protect classified or sensitive information. Of special interest is any failure to cooperate or provide truthful and candid answers during national security investigative or adjudicative processes.

  1. a. On September 26, 2018 after a fellow employee accused you of theft in the office you engaged in aggressive physical conduct towards him and were subsequently detained by law enforcement.
  2. On September 27, 2018 you falsely recorded the amount of hours you worked on your weekly time sheet.
  3. On October 23, 2018, you lied to investigators when you falsely stated that you worked all of the hours you claimed on your weekly time sheet on September 27, 2018.

How to Respond to a SOR

If an individual receives a SOR, the key for a potential successful defense involves being able to refute the specific factual allegations or to mitigate them. This process begins with hiring an attorney to assist the individual in their response.

In the example above, since it is often the case that mistakes are made in SOR’s or that information is outdated, the first step is to determine from the individual whether the allegations themselves are true, i.e. whether they actually engaged in physical conduct, falsely recorded hours on their time sheet and/or was truthful with investigators during the investigation.

Accordingly, if the facts turn out to be true, the next task is to find out what mitigating factors could be helpful in explaining why the person should still be granted a security clearance.

To do this, one must review the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines for potential conditions that can mitigate the corresponding security concerns. Additionally, the Whole-Person Concept provides overall mitigation factors for security clearance matters.

For instance, in the example above, after reviewing the Adjudicative Guidelines and the Whole-Person Concept, there may be an argument that the issues raised were isolated incidents and do not reflect the overall character of the person.

Similarly, it would also be helpful to understand whether the employee reported the incidents to security officials prior to their discovery. Additionally, letters of character, charitable work, prior military service and/or good work performance can often help to demonstrate mitigation.

Overall, the key to responding to the SOR is to start with the factual allegations, provide a full synopsis of all facts involving each allegation, and then review the corresponding potential mitigating factors. Taking these steps will begin the process of properly preparing an effective response to the SOR.

Conclusion

We represent federal employees and government contractors in security clearance cases. Should you need assistance in a security clearance matter, please contact us by telephone at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Many individuals come to us when they receive a document referred to as a Statement of Reasons (SOR) which federal agencies issue to individuals when considering the denial of their security clearance. An SOR can be issued to federal employees or government contractors currently holding or seeking a security clearance.

What is a Statement of Reasons?

A SOR lists the factual basis for potentially denying an individual’s security clearance. The SOR will list individual security concerns and provide the individual an ability to formally respond.

Typically, a federal agency will issue the SOR to the individual following the development of a security clearance concern. Subsequently, this security concern will be reviewed by the federal agency’s security office and either be cleared or proceed formally through the clearance adjudication process.

The SOR is the key document to analyze when attempting to avoid an adverse security clearance decision. For federal employees, agencies will generally attach the SOR to a cover letter that references the agency’s intent to revoke eligibility for the employees’ security clearance and provide it directly to the employee. For government contractors, the government will typically issue the SOR through the employer’s security officer.

The following is an example of a SOR issued for a federal employee based on personal conduct:

STATEMENT OF REASONS

Guideline E, Personal Conduct: Conduct involving questionable judgment, lack of candor, dishonesty, or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness, and ability to protect classified or sensitive information. Of special interest is any failure to cooperate or provide truthful and candid answers during national security investigative or adjudicative processes.

  1. a. On September 26, 2018 after a fellow employee accused you of theft in the office you engaged in aggressive physical conduct towards him and were subsequently detained by law enforcement.
  2. On September 27, 2018 you falsely recorded the amount of hours you worked on your weekly time sheet.
  3. On October 23, 2018, you lied to investigators when you falsely stated that you worked all of the hours you claimed on your weekly time sheet on September 27, 2018.

How to Respond to a SOR

If an individual receives a SOR, the key for a potential successful defense involves being able to refute the specific factual allegations or to mitigate them. This process begins with hiring an attorney to assist the individual in their response.

In the example above, since it is often the case that mistakes are made in SOR’s or that information is outdated, the first step is to determine from the individual whether the allegations themselves are true, i.e. whether they actually engaged in physical conduct, falsely recorded hours on their time sheet and/or was truthful with investigators during the investigation.

Accordingly, if the facts turn out to be true, the next task is to find out what mitigating factors could be helpful in explaining why the person should still be granted a security clearance.

To do this, one must review the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines for potential conditions that can mitigate the corresponding security concerns. Additionally, the Whole-Person Concept provides overall mitigation factors for security clearance matters.

For instance, in the example above, after reviewing the Adjudicative Guidelines and the Whole-Person Concept, there may be an argument that the issues raised were isolated incidents and do not reflect the overall character of the person.

Similarly, it would also be helpful to understand whether the employee reported the incidents to security officials prior to their discovery. Additionally, letters of character, charitable work, prior military service and/or good work performance can often help to demonstrate mitigation.

Overall, the key to responding to the SOR is to start with the factual allegations, provide a full synopsis of all facts involving each allegation, and then review the corresponding potential mitigating factors. Taking these steps will begin the process of properly preparing an effective response to the SOR.

Conclusion

We represent federal employees and government contractors in security clearance cases. Should you need assistance in a security clearance matter, please contact us by telephone at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Pet of the Week: Sophie

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Sophie, a labrador retriever mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about her:

Sophie is an amazingly sweet, friendly and well behaved for such young puppies.

Sophie is good in her crate, being quiet but loves visits from anybody willing to pay her a little attention. She has the cutest way of lifting her paw as if she is coyishlly waving at you!

Sophie is not a wild child, but is playful as a puppy should be. Most of all, she would like her very own home with a family to love.

Are you and Sophie a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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More Than a Job: Millennials See Work as a Way to Do Good

Young people are idealistic: That’s as true today as it was 50 years ago.

But there’s one sentiment that sets millennials apart from earlier generations — from the silent generation, the baby boomers and Generation X. They are also eminently practical. Call them “realistic idealists,” if you will, or “idealistic realists.” Either term applies.

Take their attitudes toward work. Many young baby boomers were skeptical that businesses had the inclination to make the world a better place. But today’s young people feel differently — they expect to give back through their jobs, too.

According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, “Many millennials feel unable to exert any meaningful influence on some of society’s biggest challenges; but in the workforce, they can feel a greater sense of control — [as] an active participant rather than a bystander.”

Businesses are responding to these attitudes — both to attract young workers and to make a difference themselves.

“Leading companies aren’t just redirecting profits by giving back to society through more traditional ‘corporate social responsibility’ tactics,” said Robert Haynie, an instructor at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. “They are figuring out how to address social and environmental issues while simultaneously advancing their business interests.”

And this mentality isn’t just limited to the business world. Before venturing into the professional world, millennials are seeking a practical way to integrate this desire to do good within their careers — without their success taking a backseat.

At Georgetown, coursework is designed to serve students who want to make money and make an impact. This approach is driven by the School’s Jesuit values, which emphasize community, social justice and service to others.

Whether you’re a millennial or a business that hires them, the landscape is changing. It’s more important now than ever that the work we do has a purpose and serves the greater good.

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Pet of the Week: Spike

Becky's Pet Care

This is a sponsored post from Becky’s Pet Care, a professional pet care service in Northern Virginia.

This week’s Reston Pet of the Week is Spike, a terrier mix who enjoys spending time in Reston with his friend Kelli.

Here is what Kelli had to say about him:

He is a super sweet terrier mix at Lost Dog Rescue Foundation. He spends his dogventures with me in Reston and loves walking the trails and enjoying the parks.

Spike is an expert snuggler that LOVES to play fetch with a tennis ball. He enjoys a good snuggle and will keep you warm cuddling with you in bed. Don’t be surprised if he wakes you with kisses in the morning!

Spike spends the majority of his time at Lost Dog Rescue Foundation but can occasionally be found hanging out with his volunteer friend in Reston. He likes to take short walks and has proven to be excellent company while watching football.  Find out more about this handsome little man here.

Are you and Spike a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Reno of the Month: Why You Won’t Get Your New Kitchen by Thanksgiving

by Mina Fies, Synergy Design & Construction

You finally decide you’re going to tackle that kitchen remodel and you want it done in time for Thanksgiving. The contractor you meet with looks thoughtful and says, “Your project is going to take 3 weeks and cost $20,000″… and then you wake up.

We’ve all seen the TV shows. Much as I love them, reality shows do a disservice to homeowners in terms of setting unrealistic expectations about what it takes to create your perfect space — both in terms of time and cost.

I had the chance to see the Property Brothers speak at an industry conference awhile back and found them not only engaging and insightful… but completely honest! One of the first things they said was “Our shows are not reality”. They went on to explain they don’t charge for their time, most of the materials are donated and a lot of the shows are shot in locations where the cost of living is vastly different from ours.

So where else does reality lie?

  • Design comes first, then construction. Thoughtful design takes time and needs to be finalized before anyone starts pulling out your cabinets.
  • We’re frequently asked, “Can’t you give me a ballpark cost?” We can certainly give you a range, but think of it as car. Want the heated seats, sunroof and rear view camera? That adds to the final cost. Until any remodeler knows if you want the high end appliances, the radiant heating or the custom cabinets, there is no way to give you an accurate cost until you’re further along in the design process.
  • You’ve finalized the design you want, now it’s time to order materials. Quality cabinetry alone can have a 6-8 week lead time. This is where many remodeling projects start to fall off the rails. Your kitchen or bathroom has been torn out, and you are suddenly told the tile you want won’t be delivered for another 4 weeks.
  • No-one should be swinging hammers in your home before they’ve finalized the design or ordered the materials. We have a saying at Synergy, “materials wait for construction, not the other way around.” The contractor you pick should be able to tell you exactly when the construction phase of your project will start and exactly when it will finish.

If any contractor comes through your front door now promising to complete your remodel by Thanksgiving, that’s great and depending on the size and scale of the project, perhaps it will. But do your homework and make sure it’s not just a tactic to get you to sign on the dotted line. The last thing you want is to be taking down your Christmas decorations and they still haven’t finished the job.

This month’s remodel features a single family home remodel in Reston. Our clients wanted to completely open up the space to create a better flow and a more cohesive space. They put their trust in us to deliver the final project on-time and on-budget and that’s exactly what we did!

Find out more about our approach to remodeling. Not ready to remodel and just want to keep in touch? Sign up to receive information directly in your inbox!

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Legal Insider: An Insight Into Reasonable Accommodations for Employees in Virginia

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John V. Berry and Kimberly H. Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America in Reston that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Many Virginia employees have come to us to discuss the reasonable accommodation process when they develop a medical condition or disability that requires a change in their duties or other workplace adjustments. We advise and represent private, federal, state and county sector employees throughout Virginia in reasonable accommodation cases.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is an employee’s request to modify their employment conditions, assignments, hours, etc. to allow them to continue working in a position despite having a disability. Notably, the reasonable accommodation process applies to both employees and job applicants in all states, including the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Primarily, under federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to most employees, encompasses and outlines reasonable accommodations. More specifically, federal employees are also covered under the Rehabilitation Act, which incorporates similar protections as the ADA.

According to these laws, employers are required to engage in the reasonable accommodation process with qualified employees unless it would create an undue hardship for them.

In Virginia, many employees are also covered under the Virginians with Disabilities Act, which applies to most employers. Under both the federal and state laws, the goal of the reasonable accommodation process is to enable employees with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy an equal opportunity in employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidelines for reasonable accommodation requests.

Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation

The most typical type of reasonable accommodation involves an employee that has developed a medical condition or disability that requires some modifications or adjustments to their working arrangements.

Usually, an employee will ask for a reasonable accommodation by approaching their supervisor or human resources department, depending on the employer, and asking for one. Accordingly, a request for reasonable accommodation can be either formal or informal. For instance, depending on the employer, some have created specific forms covering reasonable accommodation requests; whereas, other employers simply involve informal verbal discussions between the employee and their immediate supervisor.

Regardless, once requested, there is usually a discussion about the reasonable accommodation requested. The discussion between an employer and employee is often called the “interactive process,” which simply means that the employer must engage the employee in attempting to resolve the reasonable accommodation request.

This process does not mean that an employer has to grant every accommodation sought (or even the specific one requested by the employee); rather, the employer is only required to make a good faith effort to accommodate a disabled employee.

There are far too many examples of reasonable accommodations to list here as they significantly vary based on an employee’s specific disability and their particular needs. However, the Job Accommodation Network provides examples of reasonable accommodations regarding specific medical conditions.

Conclusion

When an employee in the Commonwealth of Virginia needs to request a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition, it is important to obtain legal advice and/or legal representation. Our law firm is ready to advise and represent Commonwealth of Virginia employees in the reasonable accommodation process.

Should you need assistance in this process, please contact us by telephone at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Pet of the Week: Gumbo

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Gumbo, a Terrier & Chihuahua Mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about her:

My… what big ears she has… the better to hear you with.

She is a sweet 6 month old waiting for her forever home. She is 16 pounds and not expected to be a large girl.

She will make an excellent companion. Play, run and have fun… just what she is looking for.

Are you and Gumbo a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Reston Real Estate: Golf Course Island Cluster

This is a sponsored post from Eve Thompson of Reston Real Estate. For a more complete picture of home sales in your neighborhood, contact her on Reston Real Estate.

I think Golf Course Island Cluster is one of Reston’s gems. From the outside, these contemporary, cedar sided homes look small. But walk inside and it’s like one of those magic tents in Harry Potter — the space just expands. This may be one of the reason’s the community won an architectural design award when they were built in the late 60s.

There is a lot going on in Golf Course Island Cluster right now. Over the last several years, the original owners have been moving out and young families and young professionals are moving in.

As this happens, people are renovating the homes — mostly updating the kitchens. With 188 units, homes come up for sale often — some are fixer uppers, others have been freshly renovated. Whatever you are looking for, you will find it here.

The Golf Course Island townhomes come in various sizes. Most are three bedrooms, although there are a couple with two bedrooms and a few with four bedrooms and lofts.

The hallmark of all is well-designed space that flows, large closets and privacy. Yes, privacy in a town house. The cluster is designed so that every home feels private and secluded — you won’t hear your neighbors through the walls.

Much of the cluster backs Hidden Creek Country Club’s golf course, and the main living areas open to the common areas and green space. While it appears that the private golf course is likely to be redeveloped, the plans we’ve seen so far call for a 100+ acre public amenity in the form of a park and recreational facilities.

The common spaces of Golf Course Island are beautifully maintained. For the children, there is a great playground with wonderful slides in block 12 (there are 12 blocks in the cluster). The children love it.

On most nice afternoons, you will see the neighborhood families sitting on the bench while the children run around the quad in delight. For those with dogs, there are many paths through the neighborhood, and plenty of squirrels to chase.

Each townhome is assigned one carport space, and there is ample open parking for every unit to have a second car. For visitors, there is parking on Links Drive and North Shore Drive. Golf Course Island is about one mile from the Reston Metro, Reston Town Center, and Lake Anne Plaza. And there is easy access to the Reston Association pools and other recreation areas.

Prices are ranging here depending on the condition of the home, but for the most part are in the upper-400s to upper 500s. Check out this beautiful and friendly cluster.

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Pet of the Week: Larry

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Larry, a domestic medium hair kitten available for adoption locally.

Here is what his friends at Little Buddies Adoption and Humane Society have to say about him:

Larry is a super-friendly kitten. Just so lovable!

He adores people. He is also exceptionally playful. He was about 3 months old the middle of September.

(Note: Little Buddies has adoption events every Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Pet Valu in the North Point Village Shopping Center.)

Are you and Larry a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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How to Address Three Common Financial Mistakes

Provided by Matthew Cash with Baird Wealth Management.

Through my years as a Financial Advisor, I’ve met with dozens of people. Many of whom want to confirm that what they’re doing is correct. Here are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen…

They haven’t changed their investments in years — This is common with 401(k)’s & Rollover IRA’s. They may have met with an advisor or someone at a bank or discount brokerage firm. And that person helped get them into the right investments (hopefully).

They get a statement every month with the person’s name on it. And other than a few hiccups here and there, the account has shown steady growth. So why should they change?

Imagine you originally started with a portfolio of 60% stocks & 40% bonds. If stocks grew 7% every year & bonds 3%, after five years your portfolio would be comprised of 65% stocks & 35% bonds.

You’ve unintentionally increased your portfolio risk. All while moving closer to retirement.

They do it themselves (there may be some overlap here with the previous example. Especially with 401(k)’s) — Despite having a full-time job, this person wants to handle their investments on their own. And like the previous example, they think it’s been working.

Unfortunately, the average investor underperforms the market by about 2% per year. And if they think they can beat the market, they’re probably wrong. In fact, most professional active managers underperform their respective benchmarks in the long run.

On a $500,000 portfolio, underperforming the market by 2% adds up to about $110,000 over a 10-year period.

They hold too much cash — Holding a lot of cash makes people feel secure. It never loses value. And they may even earn a few dollars on it every month. What’s the problem?

Unless you’re earning 2% interest on your cash, you’re actually losing money due to inflation. And, as mentioned in the previous example, 2% can add up to a lot. Some cash in your portfolio is ok, as long as it’s part of a financial plan.

So, what should you be doing?

Have a formal financial plan. One that answers the following questions:

1. What is the probability that I will achieve my financial goals?

Knowing this is critical. And it should be the first thing an advisor helps you to determine. It is a specific number. And once you know the answer, you can move on to the second question:

2. Can I increase the probability of achieving my financial goals?

Whether it be reallocating to the proper investments, changing the order of what you’re funding, or changing how you’re spending, you can likely increase your probability of success.

This, along with adjusting for any life-changing events, and rebalancing your portfolio when necessary, can lead to success.

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Here’s What Professionals Can Do to Keep up with the Changing Job Market

There used to be a widely accepted formula for career success: earn a college degree, land a job and work your way up.

That’s still good advice, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. And that’s because today’s professionals, college-educated or not, are encountering a new age of job disruption that is perhaps more radical than anything before.

So what does this mean for today’s professionals?

In a world where competencies are becoming obsolete, adaptability helps you stay competitive. That means being able to regularly respond to and anticipate change by building upon existing knowledge, as well as expanding it to new areas.

“Education isn’t something that stops,” said Dr. Annie Green, a faculty member for the Artificial Intelligence Management Certificate at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. “It continues. Just like the continuous improvement of an organization, it’s the continuous improvement of a person’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.”

More and more professionals today are adopting this “continuous learning” mentality. A smaller commitment, certificate programs offer an accelerated way for professionals to stay relevant. And the higher education world is responding to these shifting demands by making certificates more accessible. Today’s certificates are as varied as the needs of the professionals who earn them.

Take Moe Tun, an engineer who earned a Certificate in Cybersecurity Strategy. Cybersecurity impacts many aspects of Tun’s job, so he assembled the information he learned into a framework, similar to those his team members use to process complex technical information outside their areas of expertise. Earning a certificate in a new subject helped him adapt to evolving technologies.

No matter the industry, motivation, or career level, one thing is clear: maintaining the status quo doesn’t cut it anymore. Today’s professionals must adapt, embrace uncharted territory, and create new ways forward — wherever they may lead.

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Pet of the Week: Bo

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Bo, a Great Pyrenees & Shepherd mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what his friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about him:

Just look at that sweet puppy face!!

We believe Bo to be a Great Pyrenees mix so he will most likely be about 60-70 pounds. Right now he is 8 pounds and will be 3 months old on 9/22/18!

He is looking for his forever family who wants a four legged family member ready to play! He is going to make some lucky family a great companion.

Sweet disposition with just the right amount of silliness!

Are you and Bo a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Reno of the Month: Reston Homes with Organizational Must-Haves

by Mina Fies, Synergy Design & Construction

School is back in session but many of us are still in recovery mode from all the first day prep work!

Multiple trips to different stores to buy everything from dinosaur pencils to glitter glue to never-ending supplies of hand sanitizers and wipes. Forbes reports the average family spends around $500 per child on back-to-school items.

Now it’s the inevitable collection of backpack contents and “no, you can’t throw it away! I made it for you!” items that start piling up on your kitchen counter. Don’t know where to put stuff? Constantly asked by your family, “Where did you put my… ?”. You are not alone! Consider this:

  • Americans spend 9 million hours looking for things (organizedworld.com)
  • On average, people spend 6 minutes a day looking for their keys, cell phones and wallets/purses
  • According to napo.net, getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework

Given the money spent and time wasted in a cluttered home, this month we’re highlighting how organization can be beautifully accomplished as part of your home remodel. Perhaps some of these features should move to your “must-have” list!

Joys of a well-designed Mud Room

High traffic areas like mud rooms can become nightmarish drop zones. Mud room design should make much more efficient use of space with lots of cubbies, thoughtful storage and built-in cabinetry with ample space for coats, bags and backpacks.

One of our clients even asked us to incorporate a wet-zone to help ease post-swim meet chaos! Having a well-thought out mud room means the whole family has dedicated storage as they enter/exit the house.

Double Duty Laundry

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that laundry rooms are no longer just about function either — nothing beats a beautiful, put-together laundry that makes you feel good!

One of our clients wanted a contemporary laundry that served double duty as a craft space. With a young family, having somewhere to put all their “stuff” was also high on the wishlist. We were able to provide this with TONS of storage hidden behind oversized sliding doors.

It’s hard to know exactly what you want if you can’t visualize the space. Whoever you pick as your remodeling partner, ask them if they provide 3D renderings to show how much bang for your remodeling buck you can get with more organization.

Renderings allow you to see conceptually what the space will look like and if the design will work for you and your family.

Purposeful use for every nook and cranny

Most of us have unused areas in our home that are, quite literally, a waste of space. Good design maximizes the use of every square inch of a home. The basement of a recent Leesburg whole home remodel shows two instances of smart use of space for added organization.

In the game room, a void space was used to create storage for a table tennis top and pool cues. The space is accessed by a hidden, flush door that blends into with the wall. The remodel also opened up the space under the basement stairs to create a mini-refuge in the new niche. With built-in drawers and a twin mattress along with a bookshelf, extendable sconce and a nearby outlet, the house is tidy and ready for the grandkids!

Incorporate Built-In storage

Oh, the joy built-in storage can bring! Beautifully designed storage doesn’t mean it loses its functionality. Open shelves are great if you are good with staging; the key is to keep it simple and only display one or two “objets” to provide visual interest and not make a room feel too cluttered.

If open shelving isn’t for you but adding doors to cabinets is going to break the budget, there are lots of great options to hide items in boxes and containers that provide an inexpensive alternative from The Container Store to Target.

Interested in more hints and tips to master your remodel? Read our blogs or sign up to receive information directly in your inbox!

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Pet of the Week: Latte

Becky's Pet Care

This is a sponsored post from Becky’s Pet Care, a professional pet care service in Northern Virginia.

Meet Latte, a Great Pyrenees & Shepherd mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about her:

Lovely Latte is so cute and furry and this playful girl would love a chance to start her new life with you. She wants to learn and play as she grows.

Yes… since she is young, potty training will be involved but she will learn quickly. She will be your best friend for life!!

Lovely Latte is a Great Pyreness mix so she will most likely be about 60 pounds or more. All that beauty can’t be wrapped in a small package forever… even though she is only 8 pounds at 2 1/2 months.

Are you and Latte a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Legal Insider: Elon Musk’s Use of Marijuana Raises Question of Whether Clearance Rules Apply Equally to All

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John V. Berry and Kimberly H. Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America in Reston that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, was recently videotaped smoking marijuana on the Joe Rogan talk show. According to reports, Mr. Musk holds a security clearance as part of his CEO role at SpaceX, a major government space contractor.

As a result, news reports first indicated that the U.S. Air Force has started an investigation into Mr. Musk’s alleged drug usage due to his holding of a security clearance.

Later, news reports indicated that there was not necessarily an investigation but that the U.S. Air Force was attempting to evaluate what to do about the issue. The question is whether or not the same rules governing every other clearance holder involving drug usage will apply to Mr. Musk if he did smoke marijuana.

My suspicion is that the answer will be no.

We often represent and defend individuals who have engaged in one-time or other minor illegal drug use (yes, the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug no matter where it is consumed).

Many individuals who engage in minor drug use may still lose their security clearance over even one usage, depending on the circumstances. The ultimate result will likely highlight the distinction between high level individuals and other clearance holders (the other 99%).

This sort of double standard was recently seen at the White House where the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, apparently had so many foreign contacts that he had to amend his clearance submission (SF-86) multiple times (something that isn’t usually permitted for others).

The type of contacts that Mr. Kushner admitted to having, if they had involved just about anyone else, would have barred them from obtaining a security clearance.

We often represent individuals from Pakistan, Egypt, India or Taiwan, where having just a few relatives from their home country, or owning small amounts of property in that country can disqualify them from holding a security clearance.

It seems that there are now two sets of rules for security clearance holders and applicants. Those that are important or well-connected and then the rules for the rest of us. I find this to be troubling and very wrong.

In a case like Mr. Musk, it might usually take a year or perhaps over a year, for a person to be able to mitigate having engaged in even a one-time drug use issue. The point of having a system for adjudicating security clearances is to have ensure that everyone, a billionaire, the son-in-law of the President of the United States and Jim Jones (a GS-13 civilian employee for the Department of the Army) all live by the same rules.

Hopefully, the next President will see fit to take action in order to make the security clearance rules apply equally to all of us regardless of wealth or position.

We represent federal employees and government contractors in security clearance cases. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at 703-668-0070. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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