The Ambush of American Youth
by Bob Hoffman
If a Draft is reinstated the young men of America will be ambushed by the Selective Service System (SSS). If you are between the ages of 18 and 26 YOU are the target. The SSS regulations set the trap and the Draft is "lying in wait" for YOU. What this means is that, when the draft is reinstated, you will not have enough time to exercise your legal rights for exemption from military service. Therefore it is necessary to prepare any claims for exemptions from military service NOW.
The SSS Plan
Follow this SSS Draft scenario. First is the call to mobilize. That is followed the next day by a lottery, and within 2 weeks the first group called will receive induction notices (SSS Form 252). This notice (SSS Form 252) is a letter ordering you to report to the Army examining center where, if you pass the physical (actually an “evaluation,” it is more than a physical), you are put on a bus and sent to boot camp. If you do not pass the physical you go home and are reclassified 4F. This scheme works fast and simple. But wait a minute, when do you get a chance to know and exercise your legal right to claim an exemption from military service? In the letter (SSS Form 252) that you received ordering you to report for induction into the Army, there are two important pieces of information:
1. First, you are ordered to report for induction within the next 10 days.
2. Second, in the last paragraph on the back of the letter it says, “You may file a claim for postponement or reclassification at any time prior to the date you are scheduled to report for induction. Information is available from any selective service area office or through information booklets furnished for registrants at all U.S. Post Offices, consulates and embassies. Do not report to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) after you have filed a claim in writing with the area office. You will be advised by the area office of additional information you need to provide in support of your claim, and the procedures to be followed for submitting documentation.”
This is the first time you are told that you could ask to be reclassified. The letter does not inform you of what classifications are available. It merely states you could be reclassified. To find out what your options are you would have to go to the local Draft Board and local post office, or write to the headquarters of the SSS and request an information booklet to find out what reclassification is all about and get Registrants Claim Form (SSS Form 9).
In the meantime the clock is ticking for you to show up at the induction center. There is no stopping the clock unless you send the Registrants Claim Form (SSS Form 9) to your draft board. It must be postmarked before the date you are to report for induction.
Once the Draft Board receives your SSS Form 9, they will postpone your induction date until after they process all your claims. There are 13 exemptions from military service listed on SSS Form 9. You must then check off all possible claims you feel you are entitled to. However on this form there is no explanation of the meaning and requirements that would enable you to decide on a reclassification. So how do you know what exemptions you could claim? You don’t know!
The SSS Trap
Let's choose two exemptions listed on SSS Form 9, namely, "Conscientious Objector" and "Disabling physical/mental condition.”
After returning SSS Form 9, the Draft Board sends you all forms necessary to make the claim for each exemption that you checked off on SSS Form 9. And here comes the final trap. The SSS gives you less than 10 days to send in complete supporting documentation for all claims. In addition, you still do not know what documents you need for each claim. There are not sufficient details on the form or in the information booklet published by the SSS to complete a satisfactory claim. The ambush is complete. You followed the SSS procedures, requested the correct forms only to find out that you don’t have enough time to gather the necessary documents for your claim.
From years of experience we know it is not possible to gather the correct documents or create the needed records, etc., in less than 10 days.
Let's examine the two exemptions listed above. Before you can decide which exemptions apply to you, you have to understand the list of exemptions on SSS Form 9. For example,
1. Do you have a disabling physical/mental condition?
Most people would answer no to that question. You get along OK; you play some sports and work or attend school regularly. Yet, if the Army performed their examination in compliance with medical standards AR 40-501, about 50% of the examinees would fail the test.
Unfortunately the Army does not conduct the examination carefully, and unfortunately most people do not know what conditions the Army believes are disabling. There is a vast difference between what you think is disabling in civilian life and what the Army believes is disabling in war. There are several hundred disqualifying conditions listed in the Army medical standards AR 40-501 chapter 2. Unless you see the list or talk with someone about the list you would not know what medical disqualifying conditions you may have. For example: If you had asthma as a child (before the age of 12) and did not have the same difficulty in breathing after age 12, you might think that you do not have asthma any longer and consider yourself fit for the military. In fact, after the age of 12, you do not have to have the same degree of difficulty breathing. Rather, if you have a faint wheeze, that could be sufficient for you to qualify as having a medical disqualifying condition. You must have medical records indicating the facility and treatment procedures at the time you had the asthma attacks, the drugs administered and a physician's diagnosis. You must have these records from before the age of 12, and from after the age of 12. Without these records the Army examiner may not pay attention to your verbal assertion.
Suppose you needed mood altering drugs such as Ritalin or Prozac when you were in school. You will need extensive records explaining the diagnosis and treatment and severity of the problem. You will need to show that you actually took the drugs. And finally, there should be a statement as to what might happen to you under the stress of war. Remember the clock is ticking. You must gather these records in less than 10 days.
When you consider exemption as a Conscientious Objector on SSS Form 9, what information do you have to make the decision? Probably very little or none. You may have a strong feeling that you cannot kill people, but the common misinformation about “Conscientious Objector” could easily influence your decision as to whether or not you are eligible for a Conscientious Objector classification. You might have heard that to be a Conscientious Objector you need to be a pacifist, or that you must be non-violent, or that you need to belong to a recognized religion. None of these myths are true. The current Conscientious Objector exemption is based on Supreme Court decisions made during the Vietnam War. If you present a well-documented claim with the essential elements, you have a reasonable chance of gaining the status you want, even though the draft boards are generally not inclined to grant such status.
If you check Conscientious Objector on SSS Form 9 the draft board will send you SSS Form 22. This form has three complex questions:
Each of these questions has a very specific meaning. Not understanding the intent of these questions could lead to an answer that can be used against you by the draft board. Referring to question one, dwelling on the political or philosophical merits of a specific war, such as "agreeing" or "disagreeing" with the reasons for the war, can actually be a disadvantage to you. Question one asks you to reveal your moral or religious beliefs or values concerning your participation in war, such as, "no one has the right to take another persons life," or "life is sacred.”
Question three is particularly difficult because its intent is to test your sincerity. In general, you need documentation showing that you have written and spoken about your beliefs, and engaged in activities that indicate you live by your beliefs. If you are not aware of the need for this type of documentation while you are in high school, you will have no records to prove your case. For example, suppose in your senior year you read a book about war and wrote a report which revealed your beliefs about participating in war. When you graduated high school, you threw away all your reports, papers etc. When it comes time to apply for Conscientious Objector status, you have no records. You are trapped, because no one told you what documents are needed to make complete claims under the SSS regulations. It is recommended that you speak with a draft counselor who thoroughly understands the intent of these questions.
The primary requirement in claiming any exemptions from military service is to produce records to support your claim. You need to create and save your records during high school and thereafter. You will also need statements from people who know you.
If, during the course of your high school years you don’t reveal to anyone what you do and what you believe, then you will not have anyone who will vouch for your sincerity. You need to know how to legitimately build your record.
It is clear that today’s SSS regulations are insidious and designed to minimize the time you need to collect and create the records you are entitled to under the law. During the Vietnam War, when you registered at18, all exemptions were listed on SSS Form 100 which was sent to you immediately after registration. You knew right from the beginning what exemptions were available. You also could apply for each exemption sequentially which allowed time to gather the required documents and records. Today, you don’t know what exemptions are available until after you receive your order to report for induction and you must provide documents for all exemptions at the same time in less than 10 days.
Finally, attention young women, any new bill introduced in Congress calling for the draft could include women. Join ranks with the young men and learn about the Selective Service System in order to successfully claim your rightful exemptions.
There are numerous steps to follow even before you are 18 years old to build the necessary records for your claims. Speak to a draft counselor at the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice (434-961-6278) to learn how to effectively exercise your rights under the Selective Service System. This service is FREE.
American Friends Service Committee
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Center on Conscience and War
1830 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Charlottesville Center For Peace and Justice
PO Box 3381, Charlottesville, VA 22903