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Should Teens With Autism Register for Selective Service?

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Updated March 27, 2009

Question: Should Teens With Autism Register for Selective Service?
Must teens with autism register for selective service? Parents may feel that their son with an autism spectrum diagnosis should be exempt from the American military, and from selective service registration. But it's not that easy.
Answer: Unless a young man is institutionalized, homebound, or "in such a physical or mental condition that he would not comprehend the nature of his registration with the Selective Service System," he is required to register with Selective Service. Here is how the military discusses the issue:
Virtually all men must register with Selective Service. The exceptions to this rule are very few and include: nonimmigrant aliens on student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas, men on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and cadets and midshipmen in the Service Academies and certain other U.S. military colleges. All other men must register upon reaching age 18 (or before age 26, if entering and taking up residence in the U.S. when already older than 18).

Disabled men, clergymen, and men who believe themselves to be conscientiously opposed to war must register because there is no draft in effect, nor is there a program to classify men at this time. Should the Congress and the President reinstate a draft, a classification program would begin. Registrants would be examined to determine suitability for military service, and they would also have ample time to claim exemptions, deferments, or postponements. To be inducted, men would have to meet the physical, mental, and administrative standards established by the military services. Local Boards would meet in every American community to determine exemptions and deferments for clergymen, ministerial students, and men who file claims for reclassification as conscientious objectors.

The only process now in effect is that men between the ages of 18 and 26 register with Selective Service and keep their registration record current during that period. Neither the Military Selective Service Act nor the Presidential proclamation provide an exemption from registration because of a man's mental or physical condition unless Selective Service is provided with documented evidence that the man is hospitalized or institutionalized, home-bound and unable to function outside the home, with or without physical assistance, or is in such a physical or mental condition that he would not comprehend the nature of his registration with the Selective Service System. A determination is then made by Selective Service as to whether or not the man qualifies for exemption from registration.

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