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Obtaining disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after suffering a service-connected injury or illness can be a complex undertaking. Former servicemembers should consult with an experienced lawyer about whether they qualify for these benefits and how to go about pursuing a claim or appealing a VA denial.

The rules that govern the VA disability compensation program are not arbitrary. The VA M21-1 manual outlines the rules for filing an application, what steps VA will take once it receives an application, and what benefits an applicant may receive thereafter.

Using the VA M21-1 manual can be a great way to better understand the disability compensation program offered by VA. Working with an attorney can provide you with a clearer understanding of this manual and how it could affect your claim for benefits.

Understanding the Process Through the Manual

VA published the VA M21-1 manual to aggregate the various laws and regulations that govern the agency’s disability compensation program. For example, Part III outlines the structure of the Veterans Service Center and its role in overseeing an application for benefits. It also outlines the general claims process and what makes a veteran eligible for benefits.

This covers every topic including official status as a veteran, the definition of a service-related condition, and where a former servicemember must file their application. In short, the VA M21-1 manual can provide a quick reference to all necessary information to pursue an effective claim for veterans’ disability compensation.

Reference Tool

Not only can the VA M21-1 manual help a former servicemember understand the claims process, but it also can be a useful way to quickly evaluate the severity of a disabling condition. For instance, Part III, Subpart iv, Chapter 4 contains information on how VA will assign specific ratings to a diagnosed condition.

Although the official rating schedule is contained in 38 CFR Book C, the VA M21-1 manual provides additional information on how raters evaluate the condition and the evidence of record. Having an understanding of 38 CFR and the manual is essential to pursing a successful claim. For example, if a person expects a total disability rating due to a chronic heart condition but receives only a rating of 70 percent, that veteran should cross-reference that finding with the tables in the VA M21-1 manual and 38 CFR. An inaccurate disability rating could form the basis of a successful appeal, and using both the rating schedule in 38 CFR and the VA M21-1 manual can increase a former servicemember’s chances of reaching a favorable outcome.

Using the VA M21-1 Manual to Obtain Benefits

The VA disability compensation program and the associated bureaucracy can be challenging to navigate effectively. The laws that govern this program are complex and require dedication and experience to understand.

VA has published VA M21-1 as an integral reference manual and tool, which can also be very helpful for veterans seeking disability benefits. Veterans may use this manual to gain a greater understanding of the VA claims process as a whole.

In addition, you may refer to the disability ratings contained in the manual and in 38 CFR to know what to expect when filing a claim and whether a proposed compensation package is appropriate. Working with an attorney can make a substantial difference in understanding VA disability claims and the benefits of using the VA M21-1 manual.