GI Rights Hotline

Military Discharges and Military Counseling

Call 1-877-447-4487

Delayed Entry Program Discharge (DEP Discharge)

Fact Sheet

After you read this fact sheet, please call the Hotline (877-447-4487) to talk over your options with a counselor.

What is the Delayed Entry Program and can I get out of it.

Information current as of March 2018

NOTE: If your US citizenship is conditional upon serving in the US military, your status could be affected by ANY separation or discharge from the military. We encourage service members in this situation to contact an immigration attorney for assistance and advice. You can request free legal counsel from the American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.

Most people who enlist join through the Delayed Entry Program(DEP) sometimes called the Future Soldiers Program. This allows someone to sign up for the military prior to the date when they will ship out for initial training. People in the DEP are unpaid and are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, UCMJ.

After Joining the DEP, Some People change their Minds. During the delay before leaving for basic training some people feel they were pressured into something they weren’t sure about. Others have life changes—perhaps they decide to go to college, get married, or they get their dream job. They no longer wish to be locked into years of military service. Because the DEP is the easiest phase to get out of the military, it a critical time for anyone having second thoughts to give serious consideration to whether they truly belong in the military.

How does someone get out of the Delayed Entry Program?

One easy way to get out of the DEP is to do nothing. Simply not reporting on the day the person is scheduled to ship out sends the strongest signal to recruiters and military personnel that the person is no longer willing to become a member of the armed forces. If you are planning not to report on the ship date, it is not necessary to notify the military ahead of timeof that decision. People are separated for not reporting whether or not they have given prior notice.This is the most commonly chosen way of getting out of the DEP.

Some people feel more comfortable contacting recruiters and asking to be released from the DEP before their ship date comes. Many feel that they owe the recruiter the courtesy of notifying them that they have changed their mind so that the recruiter can spend his or her time elsewhere. Some people feel it is more official to send a formal letter asking to be discharged.

It is not necessary to write a letter or give an explanation for the change in mind.

For those who choose to write a letter, be aware that notifying the recruiter signals to them that it is time to step up their pressure.If you tell them you changed your mind, the recruiter and/or their commander are instructed to try to resell you on enlistment. Many people report seeing a less friendly side of recruiters after informing them they have changed their plans.

Again, giving a reason is unecessary. If you explain why you have changed your mind, recruiters will often say that the particular reason you have given, whatever it is, is not a valid one anyway. Many people also have reported recruiters using threats, dishonesty, and intimidation tactics to scare people into staying in. All this can create a false impression that a person cannot get out of the military or that getting out will lead to a bad discharge.

While many people choose to notify the military in advance, it is important to keep in mind that a person does not need the military's prior permission to get out. Seeking permission can lead to a great deal of frustration because recruiters rarely ever give anyone clear permission to not show up on the ship date. While recruiters know that people who don't show up are released, they rarely admit this reality. (A person can be in the DEP for up to a year, and many recruiters consequently will not take action to separaterecruits until that year is up.) So whether or not a person has formally or informally asked to get out of the DEP, most DEP members who change their minds will still find themselves having to decide whether or not to report on the ship date. Choosing not to report on the ship date has led to uncharacterized dishcarges in all known cases, whereas reporting to boot camp makes getting out a much more complicated process with potentially far more serious ramifications.

 Sometimes recruiters will insist that a person who wants to get out come to their office to fill out forms or paperwork Often, this is just a tactic to get the recuit into the office to resell them on enlisment. Sometimes after filling out such forms people are told that someone higher up did not approve the discharge. In reality it is not necessary to fill out any additional forms or paperwork to be released from the DEP. 

 A person who has decided they will not report can move on with their new life plansof finding a job, going to college, etc., at any time, whether or not they have permission from the military to do so.

 GI Rights counselors recognize that getting out of the DEP can be very stressfull for people who are used to thinking in terms of contracts being unbreakable or who have difficulty going against what authorites or people in uniform say. Be assured that in thousands of cases, we have yet to have a single person that was forced to go into the military after changing their mind in the DEP, despite many people having been told the opposite by recruiters. To discuss any of these issues with a GI Rights counselor call 877 447 4487.

Understand How Recruiters Think

The military puts a lot of pressure on recruiters.  Their Job perfomance is not evaluated according to how well they help each person find their true path in life. Their Performance is rated according to how many people they get to join their branch of the service. Once a recruiter has invested time in getting someone to sign a DEP contract, they will typically not give up trying to keep that person in, until it becomes obvious that retaining that person is a lost cause and their time would be better spent on someone else. Then recruiters cut their losses and move on. Different recruiters come to this point at different times depending on the signals they get from the person. Different recruiters use different tactics to keep people from leaving. The sooner someone sends the recruiter a clear signal, the sooner the recruiter will let go and put their energy elsewhere. If a recruit sends a recruiter the message that indicates the recruit still feels obligated, the recruiter will likely persist. Recruiters know that recruits can get out of the DEP, but they usually don't advertise that fact.


Recruiter harassment

After signaling a change of heart, many DEP members have reported harassment from recruiters. The level of harassment varies from recruiter to recruiter and case to case. If a recruiter is calling too often, a person can ask them to stop calling. If the calls persist, a person can report the recruiter for phone harassment through the phone provider.

 A recruiter has no right to enter someone's private property. A person can ask a recruiter to leave and report the recruiter to the police for trespassing if the recruiter remains or comes back. Most workplaces are also private property, and a recruiter who comes to someone's workplace can be asked to leave and can be reported for trespassing if they refuse. If a recruiter doesn't leave someone alone in a school, the person can go to the principle or other school authorities to complain about the harassment. Friends and family members are under no obligation to assist recruiters and need not give them access to private property.

 If a recruiter shows up at someone's home on the person's ship date, they have no right to enter the property without permission, nor are they allowed to force someone to leave the property. Even in cases when a person has not had contact with the recruiter in weeks or months, it is still likely that the recruiter will attempt to contact a person and try to persuade him or her to go on the ship date. Many people decide to be away from home on the ship date to avoid possible confrontations with recruiters. To discuss any of these issues with a GI Rights counselor call 877 447 4487.

Getting into another branch

Sometimes people who have signed up for the DEP of one branch of the military decide they want to be in a different branch instead. (Keep in mind that the GI Rights Hotline receives complaints about every branch of the military. We are in no position to endorse one branch or component as being the trouble-free option.) Because a person is only allowed to be in one branch of the service at a time, a DEP member who wants to change branches must be discharged before he or she can sign another contract. Because many recruiters leave people in the DEP for the entire year allowed, this presents a problem when people are in a hurry to join another branch. (We do not recommend that anyone hurry into any military contract.) One avenue to speed up the process of getting out is to submit a letter asking for release. (Some people use certified mail and save a copy of the letter for themselves.) Telling the recruiter that you are interested in joining a different branch of the military may cause the recruiter to delay your release as long as possible, knowing that you can’t join another branch until you are released.

 If after 2-3 weeks of asking for discharge in writing there is no satisfactory reply, a person can contact their local congressional office and ask that an inquiry be done into status of their separation request. (See or for contact information.)

When Is It Too Late?

 Part of the enlistment process includes going to the MEPS for a physical and swearing in to the DEP and filling out part of the contract (DD form 4). People who have taken these steps can still get out of the DEP using methods described above.

Eventually a persons time in the DEP ends and the transition to active duty for training (basic training) begins. On the date when a person is scheduled to report for basic training, they will normally be instructed to return to the MEPS and swear in a second time while they sign the last sheet of the military enlistment contract (blocks 20, 21, and 22 of the DD form 4/3 ) which states that the person wishes to be discharged from the Delayed Entry/Enlistment Program (DEP) and enlisted in the Regular Component.

Up until that final point of the second swear in and signing of the last page of the contract, people have been able to get out of the DEP by simply refusing to go. Once a person has sworn in the second time as part of shipping out they may still be able to get out of the military, but it will involve much more time and energy. People who believe they are in this status can contact a GI Rights Counselor at 877 447 4487 to determine what options they have.

Reserves And National Guard Are Different, But Usually Not That Different

Often people who join the Reserves or National Guard are not put in the DEP.  These people are eligible to attend paid drills usually in the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP). Recruiters in these components sometimes try to use this difference to confuse people into thinking it is much harder for them to get out than it is for people in the DEP. Similar to the DEP, members of the reserve are also separated when they do not report to ship out for basic training. This is typically true for members of the National Guard as well, however because National Guard members are also subject to state jurisdiction, they can face penalties at the state level. While most states simply release people who don't report, there are a few states that have punished some people for not reporting to basic or for missing drill. Anyone who has signed up for reserves or National Guard and not yet gone to boot camp can call a GI Rights counselor to discuss their situation and issues in their state: 877-447-4487.

What are the consequences if I do not go to MEPS on my ship date?

You will get out of the military. As described above it may take some time before it is finalized, but eventually everyone who has not reported has been released. We have never seen withdrawing from the DEP have any effect on things like employment, bank loans, school eligibility, or your legal record. This is the case for non-citizens as well as citizens. In fact the military will normally let someone who has gotten out of the DEP enlist again. Some employment applications ask about military service.Generally people do not list DEP time on employment application reasoning that they were never in an active pay status.

Regulations & Forms


The military regulations are written as instructions for military personnel. They do not include a how-to guide for getting out of the DEP. Consequently, information about getting out of the DEP is scattered and sometimes gives different impressions about the ease of getting out. Although the regulations do indicate that DEP members can change their minds and get out, the most clear indicator we have seen regarding final outcome is not the regulations. The most clear indicator is the actual final outcomes of the thousands of cases we have seen over the years. To date we have not seen or heard of anyone who could not get out of the DEP when they desired to do so. We have had cases of people who went ahead and joined or stayed in based on misinformation, but no one that has taken the steps listed above has been forced to join.

You can read the military’s complete regulations about getting out of the DEP by clicking on the box for the DEP and your branch of the military on the discharge pages.