BACKGROUND: Veterans with significant chronic pain from musculoskeletal disorders are at risk of substance misuse. Veterans whose condition is the result of military service may be eligible for a disability pension. Department of Veterans Affairs compensation examinations, which determine the degree of disability and whether it was connected to military service, represent an opportunity to engage Veterans in pain management and substance use treatments. A multisite randomized clinical trial is testing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment for Pain Management (SBIRT-PM) for Veterans seeking compensation for musculoskeletal disorders. This telephone-based intervention is delivered through a hub-and-spoke configuration. DESIGN: This study is a two-arm, parallel-group, 36-week, multisite randomized controlled single-blind trial. It will randomize 1,100 Veterans experiencing pain and seeking service-connection for musculoskeletal disorders to either SBIRT-PM or usual care across eight New England VA medical centers. The study balances pragmatic with explanatory methodological features. Primary outcomes are pain severity and number of substances misused. Nonpharmacological pain management and substance use services utilization are tracked in the trial. SUMMARY: Early trial enrollment targets were met across sites. SBIRT-PM could help Veterans, at the time of their compensation claims, use multimodal pain treatments and reduce existing substance misuse. Strategies to address COVID-19 pandemic impacts on the SBIRT-PM protocol have been developed to maintain its pragmatic and exploratory integrity.