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February 21, 2023

VA M21 1 Manual Explained: Learn How VA Raters Review and Rate Your Claim!

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how VA rating officials review and rate your VA claim?

Enter the online database known as: VA M21 1 – Adjudication Procedures Manual.

Broken down into 14 searchable chapters, we call M21 1 “The VA Rater Handbook,” which helps VA adjudicators review and rate VA disability claims.

And guess what?

That means YOU can get inside the process and learn how the sausage is made by learning how VA raters review evidence and make VA rating decisions.

Okay, let’s explore how veterans can use M21-1 to get “insider” access into the VA claims process.

What is VA M21 1 Adjudication Procedures Manual?

What is VA M21 1 Adjudication Procedures Manual

VA M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual is an online reference handbook used by the VA to provide guidance and procedures to VA employees who adjudicate claims for veterans’ benefits.

The manual is a comprehensive guide that outlines the rules, regulations, and procedures for evaluating and deciding claims for VA benefits, such as VA disability compensation, VA pension, VA education, and Voc Rehab, among many others.

The M21-1 manual covers a wide range of topics, including the VA’s duty to assist claimants, the evaluation of medical evidence, the establishment of service connection, the calculation of disability ratings, and many other areas of the VA claims process.

It is updated often to reflect changes in law, policy, regulation, and procedure.

The VA’s M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual is an important resource for internal VA employees who process claims for veterans’ benefits, and it can also be an incredibly valuable tool for veterans and their representatives who are seeking to understand the VA claims process.

Where Can I Find the M21-1 Table of Contents?

Click one of the 14 searchable chapters below for access to the most current online version of M21-1.

VA M21-1 ChapterM21 1 Table of Contents
Part IClaimants’ Rights and Claims Processing Centers and Programs
Part IIIntake, Claims Establishment, Jurisdiction, and File Maintenance
Part IIIVA Claim Development Process
Part IVVA Claim Examinations (C&P Exams)
Part VThe VA Rating Process
Part VIThe Authorization Process
Part VIIDependency
Part VIIISpecial Compensation Issues
Part IXPension, Survivors’ Pension, and Parent’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Part XBenefits Administration and Oversight
Part XINotice of Death, Benefits Payable at Death, and Burial Benefits
Part XIIDependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Other Survivor’s Benefits (Excluding Survivor’s Pension)
Part XIIIEligibility Determinations and Information Sharing for Other Benefits
Part XIVMatching Programs

How Does the VA Use M21-1?

How Does the VA Use M21 1

The VA’s M21 1 is a reference guide for VA raters when reviewing and making rating decisions for your VA claim.

Think of it as the “VA Rater Bible.”

This definitive source of truth encompasses law and regulation along with implementing guidance for VA officials.

VA Raters use the M21 1 manual as both a training resource and daily guide for reviewing and rating VA compensation claims.

Since the VA uses the M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual as a reference guide when deciding your claim, you should use this to your advantage and get inside the process!

How Do I Search the VA M21 1 Manual for My VA Claim?

How to Keyword Search M21 1

One of the most powerful ways for veterans to use M21-1 is to use the search feature by keyword.

For example, if you’re looking for specific information concerning a VA claim for PTSD, type “PTSD claim” into the search box and look at the suggested articles.

It’s also important to follow along with the summary of changes.

On the lefthand side under “Topics” hover over “Compensation and Pension.”

Next, hover over “M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual.”

Finally, scroll down and click “VA Changes by Date.”


Now you can see every change made to the VA’s M21-1 manual.

Is VA M21-1 Considered to Be the Law?

Is VA M21 1 Considered to Be the Law

No, M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual is not a law.

It is a manual used by the VA to provide guidance and procedures to VA employees who adjudicate claims for veterans’ benefits.

While the VA M21-1 manual provides detailed information on the rules, regulations, and procedures that govern the VA claim process, it is not law and the courts have held it as guidance rather than law.  

The legal authority for VA disability is derived from various federal laws and regulations, including Title 38 of the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.

The VA M21-1 manual is intended to provide guidance and procedures for VA employees who are responsible for processing and adjudicating claims for VA benefits.

It is periodically updated to reflect changes in law, policy, and procedure. H

However, it is important to note that the manual is not a substitute for the laws and regulations that govern the VA claims process, and it does not have the force of law.

For example, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has concluded that the VA M21 1 handbook is neither law nor regulation, but rather a guide for VA personnel.  

VA M21 Manual Conclusion

VA M21 1 Email Updates

VA rating officials use M21 1 as a definitive source of truth for reviewing and rating VA claims.

Since internal VA personnel use it, you should also use it to your advantage; get inside the VA disability process!

You can also subscribe to the VA’s email updates HERE if you want to be notified of any M21-1 changes in real-time.

About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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