For a million U.S. men, failing to register for the draft has serious, long-term consequences
April 2, 2019
On paper, it's a crime to "knowingly fail or neglect or refuse" to register for the draft. The penalty is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Last year, Selective Service referred 112,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Men who don't register for the draft by age 26 often have problems later in life with federal and state benefitsFor 39 years, it's been a rite of passage for American men. Within 30 days of his 18th birthday, every male citizen and legal resident is required to register for Selective Service, either by filling out a postcard-size form or going online.
More than 1 million men have requested a formal confirmation of their draft status since 1993 The most common consequences for failing to register are a loss of student aid, citizenship, and federal employment
What's less well known is what happens on a man's 26th birthday.
Men who fail to register for the draft by then can no longer do so – forever closing the door to government benefits like student aid, a government job or even U.S. citizenship.
Men under 26 can get those benefits by taking advantage of what has effectively become an eight-year grace period, signing up for Selective Service on the spot.
After that, an appeal can be costly and time-consuming. Selective Service statistics suggest that more than 1 million men have been denied some government benefit because they weren't registered for the draft.
With the current male-only draft requirement declared unconstitutional, Congress will have to decide whether to eliminate Selective Service registration or expand it to women.
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