How To Beat The Draft Board/General Strategies
- General Strategies
- Not a trial
The meeting is not a trial. If you become combative, you will likely be reminded of this. Whatever the biases of the board members, they only want a smooth meeting with which to assess you. What they would like is more akin to the meeting of a psychiatrist with a patient. Your advisor, if you choose to have one, is not taking the role of a lawyer. They can only talk to you. If they talk to the board, they will be out of order, and may end up kicked out.
I would strongly advise against having an advisor, except for possibly a ministerial deferment. Especially in CO cases, the board needs to assess your sincerity. Whispering back and forth with an advisor is a perfect way to make you look insincere. Equally insincere in appearance is reading from a script, or sounding like you're reciting a memorized script. Relax. Know what you plan to say, but try to have a calm, peaceable conversation.
If you absolutely feel that you must bring an advisor, consider having a lawyer as the advisor (this is allowed). Lawyers are intimidating. The lawyer could just sit there silently and still have an effect. Board members are just laypeople, volunteers. We want lawsuits (even meritless ones) about as much as we want our teeth drilled. This came up as a concern by several board members during training. If you are going for a claim in which sincerity is key, however, I would recommend against any advisor for the aforementioned reasons.
Practice with your witnesses. Your witness may undercut your argument if they say something dumb or otherwise contradict yourself. Have them read this guide. Use written documentation wherever appropriate. It must be signed to be considered. No matter how important a piece of documentation would be for us, if it's not signed, we cannot use it. Try to supply, as documentation, anything you can think of, just in case the board needs it. The local board cannot re-hear your case again later if you forget to provide something; they'll just weigh the evidence without it.
- Know your board
Know your board. Who is on it is a matter of public record. If you can't find them elsewhere, contact the Selective Service at www.sss.gov; as of the time of writing, the phone number is 1-703-605-4100. You can do an internet search for the board members' names to see if you can get any clues to how they stand on the issues. A bad sign is a retired ex-military person. A good sign is a young person with involvement in antiwar groups. The best information would be found by talking with a local board member or someone who has gone before them. Talking with a board member does not give that board member a conflict of interest - although, if they're not supportive, you may be hurting your chances if you come across as trying to cheat the system. Conflicts of interest for board members generally only apply to close relatives, coworkers and employers/employees, not friends and neighbors. If evidence suggests that the board is disinclined to approve a certain type of claim, consider filing a different type.
- Pick your board
If you have not been drafted yet, consider moving to an area with a friendly board. As a trainer stated at our meeting, "I have a number of boards who I could rely on to deny almost every CO claim that comes before them. I also have some who consistently approve almost every CO claim." Remember: you only need to have your claim approved once. You can appeal the decision of your local board to the regional or even national board, but the government will never appeal a decision that was made in your favor. A local board's decision in your favor is final.
- Know your claims
Pick a proper claim. You can pick multiple claims - however, there are a few caveats. You will ultimately only be classified under one status. The board will have to hear each claim separately. This may sound like two claims double your chances, but there are downsides. For one, you're holding up the board from reviewing other registrants, which may or may not predispose members against you, depending on their personalities and schedules. Secondly, filing under multiple claims has the possibility of making you seem insincere about your claims. The board knows that someone may file under multiple claims for precisely the reason that you would be tempted to do it - to double your odds. Whether or not to do this should be left up to you and your particular situation.