No, RAMP does not change the process for filing an initial disability claim with VA.
What Does RAMP Change?
VA’s Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) is a pilot program for VA Appeals Reform which will change the way claimants appeal decisions within the VA appeals process. If VA issues an unfavorable decision on your claim and you wish to contest it, RAMP gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the new Appeals Reform system before it fully goes into effect.
What Does RAMP Do?
RAMP is the pilot program of the revamp of the veterans disability appeals system set to take effect in February 2019. The new system, created by the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (VAIMA) signed into law in August 2017, will attempt to reduce VA’s appeals backlog and simplify the system for veterans.
VAIMA creates three separate lanes for appeals, rather than the one lane available in the current Legacy process. Veterans will have the opportunity to choose the lane into which they submit their appeal.
The purpose of RAMP is to test out the new process between the end of 2017 and when VAIMA takes effect, allowing VA to identify and address any process issues and train employees on how to handle appeals in the new system.
What Is the Process of Filing an Initial VA Disability Claim?
According to VA.gov, the most efficient way to file a VA disability claim is to create an eBenefits account and apply directly on the website.
Once you initiate the process, you need the following documents to complete the application:
- Your DD214 or other discharge/separation paperwork;
- Medical evidence of your disabling condition;
- Information on your dependents (e.g., spouse and/or children).
If you are unable or wish not to file for benefits online, VA offers two other ways to do so:
- Print VA Form 21-526EZ from VA’s website, fill it out by hand, and mail it in along with your supporting documentation as listed above;
- Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 and request a form by mail to fill out and submit; or
- Go to your nearest VA Regional Office and have an employee help you fill out the application.
If the VA Denies My Initial Application, What Are My Options?
If your initial claim is denied by VA, you can appeal an unfavorable decision. As of April 1, 2018, all veterans wishing to appeal denials of VA disability benefits may elect to do so in the current Legacy system or in the new Appeals Reform system by opting in to RAMP.
If you choose the Legacy system, you can appeal VA’s decision by filing a piece of paperwork called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). You have one year from the date VA denied your claim to file this paperwork. Once you do so, it enters a queue to be reviewed at your Agency of Original Jurisdiction.
If you choose to opt in to RAMP, you can choose between two different appeal lanes, with a third lane coming in October 2018.
These lanes are as follows:
- The Supplemental Claim Lane: In this lane, your appeal gets reviewed by a rating specialist and you can submit additional evidence to strengthen your claim. VA has a “duty to assist” you in gathering the evidence you need in this lane.
- The Higher-Level Review Lane: In this lane, your appeal gets reviewed based on the evidence of record, meaning you cannot submit additional information. A more senior VA employee will review your claim and issue a decision.
- The Notice of Disagreement Lane (set to open October 2018): This lane sends your appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for review and will be open to RAMP participants who received a denial within the program in October 2018.
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