Can Anyone Opt Into the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?
As of March 2018, only veterans who received a letter inviting them to join may opt into the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), The VA is sending more letters to veterans each month inviting them to join RAMP.
Note: On February 19, 2019 the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) was officially implemented, thus ending the Rapid Appeals Modernization program. The most up-to-date information on the AMA can be found on our page: Veterans’ Appeals Reform.
Are There Eligibility Requirements for RAMP?
Yes, RAMP has specific requirements. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you are only eligible for RAMP if you have a pending appeal in one of the following stages:
- Notice of Disagreement(NOD)
- Form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
- Certified to the Board but not yet activated for a Board decision
- Remand from the Board to VBA
Do Certain Appellants Receive Opt-In Letters Sooner than Others?
Yes, the VA stated that veterans who have been in any of the four stages above longest will receive letters first. For example, if you filed a Notice of Disagreement three months ago, you will have to wait longer to receive a letter than someone whose appeal was remanded nine months ago.
Why Would I Opt Into RAMP? How Does It Differ from the Regular VA Appeals Process?
The legacy process has drawbacks. The biggest, and the one applicants complain about the most, is the amount of time it takes, which can be several months or even a year or longer in order to receive a decision on their claim.
The new RAMP process creates two separate “lanes” for appeals, giving veterans more customized options:
- Higher-level reviews:This option allows a veteran to request a review by a senior claims adjudicator (someone higher up the VA’s organizational chart than the rating specialist who reviewed the initial application).
- Supplemental claim lane:This lane allows you to submit additional evidence supporting your claim. One benefit of this lane is that the VA will help you gather the additional evidence you think will bolster your claim.
RAMP participants cannot appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This “third lane” is closed to RAMP participants until October 2018.
The VA created RAMP with the hope that it would speed up the appeals process. Instead of having all appeals funneled into a single lane, creating a backlog, the hope with RAMP is that having different lanes for different situations will allow the review process to run more smoothly, with fewer veterans waiting extended periods of time to receive decisions.
Are There Any Drawbacks of Opting Into RAMP?
Although a potentially faster appeal is a worthwhile benefit of RAMP, there are a few possible drawbacks. If you are currently waiting on a legacy appeal and already received a RAMP letter, you should consider several things before opting into the program:
- If the VA denies your RAMP claim, you must wait until the Board lane opens to RAMP participants in October 2018 for your appeal to be reviewed by the Board.
- If you are at the stage in the appeals process where you could be eligible to take your claim directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you will lose this privilege by opting into RAMP, until at least October 2018.
- If you switch to RAMP and want to switch back to legacy, you cannot opt out of the program — you must remain in RAMP.
- Because of the available options, RAMP can be complicated and has different rules than the typical appeals process. For example, a higher-level review will only consider evidence the VA had when you opted in. If you fail to choose the correct lane, you could end up waiting even longer to appeal.
Also note that the VA has issued no guarantees on the faster wait times it hopes to accomplish with RAMP. That means you could switch to RAMP and potentially find yourself waiting just as long, or perhaps longer, for an answer than you would with a legacy appeal.
Call 800-544-9144 for a Free Consultation
With the new RAMP option available to some veterans, the disability appeals process, which was already confusing, can become even more complicated. A VA disability attorney can help you navigate the process for the best chance of a favorable outcome. For a free consultation, call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD at 800-544-9144.
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