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va manual m21-1mr

Can you imagine if, before you started a battle, you were able to get access to the enemy’s plans, processes and procedures?

Give me 3 hours to study the enemy’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) and I will wreak havoc and wear them out from behind their own lines.

Using another metaphor…

….do you think that ANY team that LOST the  Superbowl would like to go back in time and replay the game –  AFTER seeing their Opponent’s playbook?

VA Manual M21-1MR is the VAs “Playbook”.

Every action that a VA claims examiner, rating specialist, DRO – any VA employee – takes in a VA claim is in VA Manual M21-1MR.

It is broken down into 11 parts:

Part 1:  VA Claimant’s Rights and Responsibilities.

Part 2: This has been replaced by t he VA Benefits Assistance Service Procedures Manual, M27-1.

Part 3: General Claims Process, including the following topics:

Claims Processing Improvement Model

Initial Screening and Determining Veterans Status

General Development and Dependency Issues

General Rating Process

General Authorization Issues and Claimant Notifications

Special Authorization Issues

Part 4:  Compensation, DIC, and Death Compensation Benefits

Part 5: Pension and Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Part 6: Chapter 18 Benefits

Part 7: Burial Benefits

Part 8: Accrued Benefits

Part 9: Ancillary and Special Benefits

Part 10: Matching Programs

Part 11: Formerly, the VA Frauduciary Program. This was rescinded on November 19, 2013 and replaced by the VA Frauduciary Manual.

 How do you use VA Manual M21-1MR to your advantage?

#1: Get a copy of your VA C-File.  

The C-File is the most important document in your VA Claim.  I don’t know how any Veteran fighting a long battle with the VA can possibly win without knowing what is – and what is not – in the C-File.

#2: Figure out why the VA Keeps Screwing Up Your Claim.

#3: Once you know what PART of your claim is the problem, go to the section of the VA Manual M21-1MR that pertains to the particular problem you are having.

#4: Use the VAs own Standard Procedures in VA Manual M21-1MR to fix the problem.

Where do you find the VA Manual M21-1MR?  For now, you have to get it chapter by chapter on the VA website.

I am working with a Web Coder to see if we can’t build a more accessible version of the VA Manual M21-1MR for Veterans.

We’ve built a version for attorneys to use:  it’s an annual subscription that costs $200 per year.  That’s too expensive for nearly every Veteran.  So I’m working with this same company to provide an option that allows Veterans to subscribe on a monthly basis for as long as they need it during their claim.  


Let’s take a look at an example of how to use VA Manual M21-1MR.

Here’s a hypothetical:

You are a Veteran with asbestosis.

(Asbestosis is a condition that results from inhaling the fibers of which asbestos is made. It can cause many types of cancer, lung diseases like emphysema, vascular problems, and much more.)

You claim service connection of asbestosis and emphysema as a result of your exposure to asbestos on the USS Columbus during the Korean War.   The VA – for years and years – denies your claim for service connection and you don’t understand why.

After you get a copy of your C-File from the VA, you discover a note in your C-File (where it came from is anyone’s guess) that says that you were exposed to asbestos AFTER your military service while you worked as a contractor at the Naval Shipyards in DC.

Problem is, you never worked at that Naval Shipyard.

Let’s solve the Problem using the enemy’s playbook!

Go to VA Manual M21-1MR and put a nail in the coffin of VA excuses for denying your claim. Here is a small snippet of what the VA needs to “develop” your asbestos claim…using the above facts, see if you can figure out what to do after reading the snippet below

Solve the Problem:  Turn this list from VA Manual M21-1MR into a checklist of things to prove.

You don’t have to DISprove anything in a VA Claim, but if you can, consider doing that.

It gets really hard for the VA to raise the mercury level in the VA Claims Evidence Thermometer high enough to deny your claim if your file has 5-Star Evidence that disproves everything the VA is trying to “prove”.

Think about that for a little bit.

This may not be the best course in every case – we don’t want to send the VA a haystack of evidence and then tell them to find the needle.

We are trying to show them – in the most clear terms possible – the needle.

Using the above snippet from VA Manual M21-1MR, you can:

Get proof of your exposure to asbestos while in the Navy – though this manual says that they are looking for service records, you are NOT bound by YOUR service records.  Know another veteran that ser.

Get proof  – through Sworn Declarations or other 5-star evidence – that you were not exposed to asbestos before or after service.

Get proof – through a competent medical examiner – that your asbestos was at least as likely as not related to your military service on the USS .


  1. Vernon Nelson

    Thanks for this info. I received my VA award letter in June, 2016, backdated for payment from April 1st. I am a Vietnam Vet with non-Hodgkins lyumphoma and lieukema. My stage is IV and my rating is 100%, total and permanent.
    If I die of a non-service connected death, like an accidental death, before having this disease for 5 or more years, will my wife be entitled to DIC?

    • Chris Attig

      Here’s when a Surviving Spouse becomes entitled to DIC:

      1) Service-member died on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training


      2)The Veteran died from an injury or disease deemed to be related to military service,


      3) The Veteran died from a non service-related injury or disease, but was receiving, OR was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling a) For at least 10 years immediately before death, OR b) since the Veteran’s release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death, OR c) at least one year before death if the Veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999

      The last one is the 1-5-10 year rule.
      10 Year rule: Survivor gets DIC for death due to non-service connected condition if Veteran was service connected and totally disabled for 10 years prior to death
      5 Year rule: Survivor gets DIC for death due to non-service connected condition if Veteran was totally disabled for 5+ years prior to death and totally disabled since leaving service
      1 Year Rule: Survivor gets DIC for death due to non-service connected condition if Veteran was totally disabled for 1+ year prior to death, and was a POW that died after the date indicated

      Hope that helps.


  2. James W Maxey

    How do I get a copy M21-1MR. VA is playing hard to beat. I am still waiting for my C-File and C&P Exams. It been over 30 days. I’ll be sending my appeal next week. I gave them more than 20 days. What so bad they never have used a claim folder on any of my exam. They use my claim folder plus they use false information to denie my claim for over 20 years.

    • Chris Attig

      Right now, the only way is to search the VA website….and download it one chapter at a time in Word format.

      I am working with a Web “Coder” to develop a program that allows Veterans to subscribe to a fully searchable PDF delivered by email….the idea is that for a couple bucks a month, the Veteran can subscribe and get the VA M21-1MR for as long as they need it in their VA Claim.

      We developed something similar for attorneys that represent Veterans, and it has been WILDLY popular. I’ll keep you posted.



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