Sources of Law

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Advocates might find it helpful to understand how statutes, case law, regulations, and VA directives, such as the VA’s Adjudication Procedures Manual M21-1 (Manual M21-1), are related. Of these four sources of law, statutes, which are written by Congress, are the highest form. Statutes that govern veterans benefits are found in Title 38 of the United States Code (U.S.C.). Precedential decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court (“case law”) are the next highest level of authority. These decisions can be found on the courts’ websites, in books called “reporters,” and in a variety of other places. The VA writes regulations to carry out the laws written by Congress; these are found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). The VA’s internal instructions for adjudicating claims are contained in the Manual M21-1. VA regulations must not conflict with any statute or case law. Manual M21-1 provisions must not conflict with statutes, case law, or regulations.