US military draft disqualifications list - are you exempt?

Questions continue to mount over a possible military draft after politicians recently passed an updated version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the U.S. government to automatically register men ages 18 to 25 into the Selective Service, or draft system.

It is mandatory for all male U.S. citizens to register for the selective service, also known as the military draft, when they turn 18. Failure to register classifies as a felony, which may result in imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of $250,000 max.  

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The law currently requires that only men register with Selective Service. In the event that the law is changed to include registering women, "Selective Service is prepared to expand registration," the website reads.

The Senate Armed Forces Committee has since created their version of the NDAA where the draft eligibility would be extended to women. The proposal to have women register for the draft is not included in the House’s version of the bill. The bill was approved in the committee by a 22-3 vote last week and advances to the Senate for consideration. The bill will then need to be approved by both the Senate and the House and be presented to the president for signing.

While the draft hasn't been invoked in over half a century, there are a few cases when a man is exempt from registering, according to the SSS website. 

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The few individuals who are exempt from registering include:

  • Non-immigrant men on a valid student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas 
  • Men on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Cadets and midshipmen in the Service Academies and certain other U.S. military colleges

Clergymen and male students of ministry are not exempt. Sole surviving sons who are the sole source of support for their mothers are still required to register, but can make a claim for deferments, postponements, or exemption from serving. 

"Only sons" also must register, but they may be entitled to "peacetime deferment if there is a military death in the immediate family."

Congress and the president can reinstate the draft and force male citizens to serve in the military in the event of a national emergency or war that all-volunteer military can't adequately support.

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The last time a draft was held in the U.S. was in 1973 during the Vietnam War.