This FAQ is related to Courage to Resist’s “Resisting Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) recall” published February 2009. If this question is of interest to you, please read our overview first.

Individuals usually answer this question by weighing the following:

  • Effort required to assemble a compelling exemption package
  • Likelihood that their exemption package will be approved
  • Motivation level to continue following military orders
  • Avoidance of the OTH discharge from the IRR if possible

Filing for an exemption prior to and without physically reporting for activation does not change your status, nor does it further “validate” the military’s authority to take action against you for refusing to report at some later date. However, if you fail to get the exemption and later refuse to report, you are probably more likely to get a General or Other Then Honorable (OTH) discharge from the IRR because they know you knew about the activation.

According to the Army, exemptions may be approved for extreme personal hardship, extreme community hardship, or medical disqualification. Additionally, if you believe you are a “emergency essential employee”, your employer must initiate the exemption process.

Under no circumstances would we suggest physically reporting for activation in order to apply for an exemption, or to “complete the process” of filing for an exemption. You should assume that the UCMJ again applies to you the moment you physically step foot on the designated military facility—there is no turning back if your exemption is denied. Even if the exemption is successfully reviewed and granted there, you may wait weeks or months—away from your job, family and community—for the military’s decision.

If you don’t get the exemption you request, the military may be more dogged in their harassment and threats against you for not showing up simply because they will have confirmed contact information for you.

Regardless, some military rights counselors advocate for every IRR recall resister to file for an exemption. With a plausible medical and/or significant hardship narrative, adequate effort in documenting your claims, the advice and support of military rights advocates, and being prepared to appeal the first denial of your exemption to the Commanding General of the IRR command, individuals stood a good chance of being among the exemption claimants who were ultimately successful.

As of March 2010, it appears that exemptions are becoming increasingly difficult to win. Every exemption claimant should now expect, and be prepared for the need, to file an appeal of the military’s initial denial of your exemption packet.

In addition to filing for an exemption, you may also file for a deferment—meaning that you can’t report for activation now, but will be able to do so, in say, six months. However, that’s not exactly “resisting” IRR recall. In short, deferments are easier to get than exemptions.

The military claims that 13,500 IRR soldiers have requested delays or exemptions since 2001. Of those, 10,500 were granted. Delays and exemptions can be requested for any reason, but the three most common are medical, family care and educational reasons. Some believe that the military has been managing political opposition and IRR resistance by being fairly willing to grant delay or exemption requests.

Nearly half of those recalled request a delay or exemption, known as a “D & E”. To apply, Soldiers need to complete an exemption packet (Army D & E Guide Sept. 09) with as much supporting documentation as possible, and they need to do so within 14 days of the date printed on their orders.

About half of those that request an exemption, and appeal if at first denied, get it. However, it’s becoming harder to win these exemptions. Exemption requests can be made for “extreme hardship” or medical disqualification–separation from family or loss of income is not enough.

Individuals who apply for exemptions remotely via mail or fax prior to the recall date maintain the option of simply not reporting if their request is denied. However, if an individual is told that they must physically report to “complete the process”, there is no “going back” after doing so.

IRR members most likely to receive exemptions include those with medical disabilities rated at 30% or more by the Veterans Administration (or a claim pending for the same that is judged by the IRR mobilization authority as “likely to succeed”), and those that can prove they are the sole caregiver of a dependent.
Resisting Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) recall by Courage to Resist. February 2009