By TRAVIS MURDOCK
Men approaching the age of 26 must have registered with the Selective Service before their birthday to be eligible for federal student aid, job training and most federal employment as well as to avoid prosecution as a felon, according to the Selective Service System.
“If a man hasn’t registered by 26, then there is no way to register. They may register up to 26 and preserve their federal benefits, like working federal jobs and federal aid,” said Leland Ford, Selective Service state director.
Men are required by law to register with the Selective Service before their 18th birthday or face a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. At 26, men are no longer eligible for induction should the draft be reinstituted. If they have never registered with the Selective Service, they must register before their 26th birthday to qualify for future federal benefits. The Selective Service does not have the authority to accept late registrations after a man reaches his 26th birthday.
“We owe it to them to make an effort to let the men know that they need to register before 26 so they will not be denied benefits later in life,” Ford said.
Federal legislators in 1982 began to include Selective Service registration as a requirement for federal jobs and aid in their legislation.
“The legislators attitude is, ‘Why should we give a student loan to someone that doesn’t have enough guts to go down and register for the draft?'” Ford said.
Some states require registration for state student aid, entrance to state-supported colleges and universities, state employment and permission to practice law, Ford said.
The Selective Service reports that 126,579 men between the ages of 18 and 25 are registered with the Selective Service in Utah; more than 13 million men are registered nationwide.
“We have 90 percent registration by age 20 and 95 percent compliance by age 26,” Ford said.
Utah’s compliance rate is slightly higher because its residents are typically more educated, Ford said. Candidates for registration are found and notified by mail through drivers license applications and school records.
“If they drop out of school and don’t obtain a drivers license, they may not know they are required to register for the draft,” Ford said.
The Selective Service headquarters in Denver is contacted at least once a week by someone who has been denied federal jobs or benefits under the law for failure to register.