What Is the Military Draft Cut-Off Age?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Apr 1, 2020 9:24:54 PM ET
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The last military draft in the United States occurred during the Vietnam War. However, men must still register for the draft even when the country is not at war. Twenty-six years is the cutoff age.

Who Has to Register

Men between the ages of 18 and 25, inclusive, must register for the draft. However, the U.S. does have provisions that allow for those up to the age of 54 years of age to be drafted if they have certain needed skills or experience. As of 2017, women are not required to register for the draft. One does not have to be a citizen in order to register. In fact, the law states that undocumented residents, refugees and those seeking asylum have 30 days from the day that they enter the country to register with Selective Service System.

How to Register

Registering is easy; it can be done at any post office within the U.S. Residents can also register online or fill out the card that is sent out to males when they turn 18. The person registering does not need a Social Security card in order to fill out the forms, and Selective Service does not collect information as to whether or not the person who registers is a citizen or not.

How the Draft Works

The U.S military uses a lottery system to select workers, and those between the ages of 18 and 25 inclusive are drafted first. If a draft was authorized by the U.S. Congress and the president, a lottery based on birthdays would occur, and those who turn 20 during that year would be the first inducted. If more men were required, the lottery would start with those aged 21 and continue in order with those aged 22, 23, 24, 25, 19, and 18 years old.

What Happens After Registration

In most cases, nothing happens after registration. After registration, a man has upheld his duty and can cross registering off his to-do list and carry on with his normal daily life. The only time the registrant would be called upon is if something were to happen that required a draft. In that event, men will be called and checked out for both mental and physical health. Some will be called upon to serve immediately, while others will be deferred. Some men may be called on at a later date, and others will be deemed exempt from serving.

Consequences of Not Registering with Selective Service

Failing to register with the Selective Service can have far-reaching consequences that impact areas of a man's life. The failure to register results in being unable to obtain federal financial aid for school or being unable to obtain a federal job, U.S. citizenship or federal job training. A person may also face fines and jail time. Fines can be up to $250,000, and spending up to five years in jail is possible.

If a male older than age 26 and can prove that his failure to register was not willful, he may be able to overcome some of the consequences. For example, if he can explain why he didn't register and offer compelling evidence to support his reason for not registering, he may be able to convince the officials handling the case that his failure was not due to knowingly ignoring the law.