Let's get it all out into the open: If a recruiter (or anyone else) tells you that you can't get out of the DEP, they are lying to you. If they tell you it will be a "dishonorable discharge," they are lying to you. If they tell you that you will go to jail, they are lying to you. If they tell you that you will be fined, they are lying to you. If they tell you that it will keep you from getting student loans, or jobs, or anything else, they are lying to you. If they tell you that MPs will come and drag you away to basic training, they are lying to you. Don't laugh, but one recruit was even told that the DEP discharge would go on his "social security record," and remain there for 53 years. Obviously, that, too, was a lie (remember when teachers used to tell you that your behavior/grades would go on your "permanent record," and follow you for life?).
A DEP discharge is officially known as an "Entry Level Separation" (ELS). An ELS is not characterized. It's not "Honorable," it's not "General," it's not "Under Other Than Honorable," it's not anything. DEP Discharges do not result in an RE (Reenlistment Eligibility) Code that will prevent joining the same (or another) military service in the future.
A DEP discharge has one, and only one negative effect: If you are discharged from the DEP, and later want to enlist in that SAME service, you will require a waiver. While waivers are usually granted, you may lose certain benefits, such as the ability to chose what job you want, or what date you will ship out to basic training. For example, one Air Force Recruiter told me that his commander would only approve a waiver for someone with a voluntary DEP discharge, if the recruit agreed to ship out to basic training within 30 days (which, in turn, limited what job choices the recruit would have). On the other hand, an Army Recruiter told me that she made it a routine habit to contact DEP discharges six months or so down the line to see if they had changed their minds and now wanted to join. Apparently, her particular commander approved these type of waivers routinely.
As far as I've been able to determine, however, a discharge from the DEP has no negative effects if you later wish to enlist in a DIFFERENT military service -- only if you wish to enlist in the same service that discharged you from the DEP. Additionally, a DEP Discharge does not appear to have any effect on commissioning programs, such as ROTC scholarships, Officer Candidate School (OCS), Officer Training School (OTS), or the military academies. (Exception: The Navy requires a recruiting commander waiver for all DEP discharges, even if the discharge was from a different service. From what I've seen, however, such waivers are easily granted, after a brief interview -- usually over the phone).
DEP Discharge and Citizenship. There is a federal law (8 USC, Section 1426), which states that if an immigrant alien, living in the United States, refuses military service on the basis of not being a U.S. Citizenship, they forever relinquish their right to become a U.S. Citizen. The Navy requires non-citizen recruits entering the DEP to acknowledge this law in writing. Unfortunately, some Navy recruiters then tell the DEPPers that it means they cannot drop out of the DEP, or they will lose their right to citizenship. Not true, folks. What the law says is that an immigrant gives up the right to citizenship if they refuse to serve in the military on the basis of being a non-citizen. In other words, if they are drafted, and they refuse to serve because they are not a U.S. Citizen, they lose their right to citizenship. If they drop out of the DEP for any other reason than not being a citizen (for example, to join a different service, to attend college, or even just because they changed their minds), this law doesn't apply.
DEP Discharge Procedures
All requests for discharge from the DEP need to be in writing (See Sample Letter). The letter must clearly state that you are requesting to be discharged from the DEP, and state your reasons why.