Military Draft Rules

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The military draft has not been instituted in the United States since the Vietnam War, but young men must still register with Selective Service as the draft could go into effect at any time. If drafted, a draftee has very little time to get his affairs in order or to apply for exemptions or deferments. Knowing the rules of the draft helps young men and their families to make informed decisions.

Register for the Draft Lottery

All male citizens of the United States between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with Selective Service. Once registered, he will be in the lottery for the draft, if one is enacted. Registration can be done online or through the local Post Office. Registration is mandatory, and failing to register can be punished by prosecution and subsequent jail time. If a young man is hospitalized or in jail, he does not have to register unless he is released prior to the age of 26. At that time, he has 30 days to register with Selective Service. If a young man is disabled, he must still register. If he is serving in the military under active duty, he does not need to register unless he leaves the military before he turns 26 years old.

Register Even If You're a Conscientious Objector

Conscientious objection means that a person is opposed to war and to the draft on an ethical or moral basis. He must still register with the Selective Service, and if a draft happens to begin, he must file a conscientious objection claim with his local board. A conscientious objector will need to provide documentation of his beliefs, possibly in the form of witnesses who can testify to his claim. Conscientious objection claims can be based on religious beliefs, but this is not required. Alternative service is an option that may be offered and includes jobs that contribute in a meaningful way to national health and interests.

Check If You're Exempt

There are many categories under which a young man might file for an exemption or deferment from the military draft, but he must apply for these exemptions and deferments. The criteria in almost all of these circumstances are stringent, and claims must be supportable in order to be granted. These exemption and deferment claims can range from financial hardship to mental and physical reasons. A young man applying for an exemption or deferment must be able to submit documentation supporting his claim in order to have his claim granted. Local draft counselors or an attorney can provide advice about specific situations. The local Post Office can provide applicants with information about draft counselors.


  • Young men, aged 18 though 25, are required to register with the Selective Service. If a draft goes into effect, you can be brought into active duty by lottery based on your year of birth.

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