When an individual petitions the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for a determination whether that individual's failure to register with the Selective Service was “knowing and willful,” there is typically a two-step process involved. First, the individual requests the determination through his Agency, which in turn forwards the request and supporting materials to OPM for an initial determination. In our experience, the initial determination invariably results in a finding of a knowing and willful violation, no matter what the circumstances. Historically, it has been at the second-level review — conducted by OPM's Director or designee — where we have achieved universally positive determinations for our clients with Selective Service registration issues.
Very recently, OPM issued a favorable determination for one of our clients at the first level of review. Our client, a native born U.S. citizen, failed to register with the Selective Service because, like many of our clients, he did not become aware of the registration requirement until well beyond the date at which he was still eligible to register (men must register prior to their 26th birthday). Our client's circumstances were fairly unique – he had a troubled childhood, dropped out of school at an early age, and lived a relatively transient existence until he found his unique niche in life — as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.
Departing from its past practices, OPM determined at the first level of review that our client's failure to register was not knowing and willful, thereby securing his job and career with the U.S. Forest Service. Only time will tell whether this decision represents something more than a temporary shift in the way OPM has traditionally handled Selective Service determination cases.