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How to Use the VA M21-1 Manual | Veterans Serving Veterans

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Getting the benefits you’ve earned and deserve as a veteran isn’t always an easy task. While updates to the system are supposed to provide clarity, it can still be confusing trying to figure out what steps you need to take and how to ensure that your claim or appeal is moving forward smoothly. Recent updates to the VA M21-1 manual are especially important for veterans to understand, but it can be a lot of information to sift through.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the VA M21-1 Manual?

The VA recognized that there were many policies and regulations collected across multiple locations. This, obviously, makes it challenging to keep track of next steps and makes it more likely that an important part of the process will be missed—which can be costly and time-consuming. The VA M21-1, Adjudication Procedures Manual, is designed to aggregate this important information into one place that’s easier to navigate.

The manual is housed on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website and is laid out with a table of contents spanning fourteen parts with internal links moving users through each part.

How Do I Use the VA M21-1 Manual?

Because the manual is such an extensive collection of policies, laws, and procedures, it actually has multiple uses. A veteran who is simply trying to gain a more thorough understanding of the process of filing a VA disability claim or making a disability claim appeal will be able to turn to this resource for a big-picture overview of the steps. Others will find the VA M21-1 manual a quick way to navigate to specific reference points in the process even once they are well into the claim procedure.

Using the VA M21-1 Manual as a Reference Tool

Those who want to be able to quickly find a particular piece of information may find the VA M21-1 manual the best starting place. Because it aggregates information from various parts of the VA website into one place, it is often easier to find what you are looking for from this outline rather than typing in random search terms and hoping you get what you need.

For example, Part V goes over the rating process in great detail. A veteran could use this as a jumping-off point for understanding the VA disability calculator, the effective dates and their assignment procedures, and a thorough overview of how disability is determined for different conditions and parts of the body.

Using the VA M21-1 Manual to Understand the Process

The process for filing a VA disability claim is not an easy one, and trying to keep track of what steps the claim must go through can be quite frustrating. The VA M21-1 manual serves as a place to look at the entire process from start to finish.

The table of contents is laid out in chronological order and follows the claim process from inception (including eligibility) to completion (including the potential of denial and the appeals process).

No matter what path a particular claim takes through the disability determination, the manual should provide a clear overview of the steps and where you are in the process.

Using the VA M21-1 Manual to Help Get Benefits

Perhaps one of the most important uses of the manual is to get a better understanding of what benefits are available to you in the first place. The list of conditions eligible for VA disability benefits is extensive, but many may not know that the medical conditions they’re dealing with qualify for compensation.

Using the VA M21-1 manual to thoroughly review what benefits are available and under what conditions can provide a more thorough picture of what claims you can make. To put it another way, this manual can be the starting place for exploring benefits more fully in order to start the claims process.

How Can a VA Disability Lawyer Help?

As even a passing glance at the VA M21-1 manual will demonstrate, there is a lot of information here to sift through. Trying to navigate all of these details can be confusing, time-consuming, and frustrating. Not fully understanding your benefits and how they apply to your particular conditions can also be costly.

An experienced VA disability lawyer is trained to apply the policies and procedures from the VA to a wide range of situations. Let us help you navigate this challenging process so that you can rest assured that you’re getting the benefits you deserve without having to worry about the complicated nature of the process. If your claim has been denied or your appeal deadline is fast approaching, contact us today for a free case review.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Updates Were Made to the VA M21-1 Manual?

The VA M21-1 manual is a continuously updated, constantly evolving reference guide. Changes made by the VA are organized by date here.

Where Can I Find Information About Rating Criteria for My Medical Condition?

Part V, Subpart iii of the VA M21-1 manual contains links that discuss the rating criteria of all medical conditions eligible for VA disability benefits.

What Can a VA Disability Lawyer Do for My Case?

Navigating the claims process can be time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating. An experienced VA disability lawyer can remove the stress by helping you get the benefits you deserve without having to worry about whether you’re following the process correctly.


VetLaw’s experienced veterans’ disability lawyers are accredited by VA and can help analyze the reasons for your initial or any subsequent denial, assist you in gathering any additional evidence that can help prove your case, and guide you to pursue the appeal path that aligns with your unique circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, we can appear with you before the Veterans’ Law Judge who will hold your hearing and decide your case. Since the time to file a request for an appeal is limited, call us today to schedule a free case review and consultation.