What is Fraudulent Enlistment?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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Fraudulent enlistment occurs when a person enlists in the military while knowingly concealing information that could lead to disqualification. In the past, concealing details such as age has been overlooked, particularly in times of war, but modern-day military organizations often respond to fraudulent enlistment with serious measures. Fraudulent enlistment is also closely related to fraudulent appointment and fraudulent separation, all of which may be cause for a court-martial.

Every military has rules and regulations regarding entry requirements. These may span a large range of requisites, from body fat percentage to a history of psychiatric treatment. Fraudulent enlistment occurs when a person intentionally conceals disqualifying information in order to enlist; if a medical or psychological condition is discovered after enlistment, a person may still be discharged, but not usually accused of enlisting through fraudulent means.


Fraudulent enlistment often occurs because a person who wants to join the military is afraid he or she will not be permitted to do so because of a disqualifying feature. In some cases, this fear is justified, but not always. Some military organizations occasionally permit people to apply for a waiver that permits enlistment regardless of disqualifying features. Obtaining a waiver may be dependent on the type of disqualification, if it is a relatively recent occurrence, and if supporting evidence can show that a waiver is warranted. An example of a situation in which a waiver might be issued is if a person suffered from childhood asthma, yet passes all required physicals and gets a statement from physicians confirming that the condition is resolved.

There have been reported instances of situations where people enlisted fraudulently after being encouraged to withhold information by a recruiter. While this is a rare occurrence, it is important to remember that the enlisted person is still held accountable for his or her actions, regardless of the advice he or she received. In order to have a chance at legal enlistment, it is better to inform the military of possible disqualifying factors and apply for a waiver.

Possible penalties for fraudulent enlistment include dishonorable discharge, heavy fines, and prison. If the fraud is discovered within the first few months of training, the person may simply be dismissed rather than receive an official discharge. Dishonorable discharge can be a matter of some shame for people that dreamed of joining the military; it may also affect some legal rights, such as gun ownership.

Two related military crimes are fraudulent appointment and fraudulent separation. Fraudulent appointment occurs when an already-enlisted member conceals or exaggerates details in order to receive a different appointment or promotion. Fraudulent separation, which is considered akin to desertion, occurs when a person gives fraudulent reasons in order to obtain discharge. Both crimes may result in a court martial, and have sentences similar to those for enlistment fraud.


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