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You will not need to opt-in to VA appeals reform once it has been fully enacted. Once the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (VAIMA or the Act) goes into full effect, it will be the “law of the land.”

When Does Appeals Reform Go into Effect?

The earliest appeals reform will go into effect is February 14, 2019. Until then, veterans may have the opportunity to opt-in to the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP). RAMP is VA’s pilot program for appeals reform and allows veterans to opt-in to one of three appeal lanes (note: one of these lanes is not yet open). However, at this time, the implementation date of February 14, 2019 is not set in stone; the new system may not be fully implemented until a later date if VA determines it needs more time.

What Happens to Appeals That Are Currently in the Legacy System?

Nothing will happen to appeals that are currently in the Legacy system. As of April 1, 2018, veterans with pending appeals in the Legacy system have the option to opt-in to RAMP; however, if these veterans choose to remain in the Legacy system, nothing will change and their appeals will eventually be processed. The Legacy system will continue to process appeals until no appeals remain.

What Is the Difference Between the Current Appeals Process and The Process Under Appeals Reform?

In the current appeals process, also known as the Legacy appeals process, all appeals are first reviewed at the regional office level and another appeal is required before an appeal makes its way to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for review. Because VA receives such a large volume of appeals, backlogs are common, resulting in agonizingly long wait times for veterans.

The new system aims to make the process more efficient by creating three separate “lanes,” or options, for appeals. Veterans appealing a denial can choose in which lane they file their appeal depending on what best suits their needs.

The three lanes are as follows:

  • Higher-Level Review Lane: You can choose this lane if you believe the rating specialist who reviewed your original claim made a mistake. In this lane, a higher-level employee (a more senior claims adjudicator) will review your claim. The downside is you will be unable to submit additional evidence with your appeal. The review of your claim is done based on the evidence of record.
  • Supplemental Claim Lane: In this lane, you can submit additional evidence to help bolster your claim.
  • Board Review Lane: This lane, which does not open to RAMP participants until October 2018, allows you to send your appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). (Note: only veterans who receive a denial within the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program will be able to select the Board appeal lane.)

Once Appeals Reform is fully implemented, applicants can consult with their disability attorneys to determine which lane makes the most sense given the specifics of their appeal.

Can I Change Lanes Once I Have Filed an Appeal in the New System?

Yes, but once you choose your lane, you must stay in it until you receive a decision. If you accidentally chose the higher-level review lane when you needed to submit additional evidence, you must wait until the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) grants or denies your claim before moving to the correct lane.

Can I File Multiple Appeals?

Yes. You can continue to file appeals until you receive your desired outcome. If you file an appeal with the higher-level review lane and receive a denial, you can change lanes and file an appeal with the supplemental claim lane or the Board review lane.

Call 800-544-9144 to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Member of the Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD Legal Team

The VA disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD want to help you with your appeal so that you can get the VA disability benefits to which you are entitled. For a free case evaluation, call 800-544-9144.

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