The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) is the pilot program for the permanent revamp of the VA disability appeals system set to take effect in February 2019. With the new system, codified by the recently passed Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, VA hopes to make the appeals process simpler for veterans by giving them more appeal options and removing the inefficiencies and backlog that cause long wait times.
The “Legacy” Appeals System vs. Appeals Reform’s RAMP
The Legacy System
In the current system, known as the “Legacy” system, all appeals follow the same path and are processed the same way until they get to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals where they wait in docket order to be reviewed.
This single queue has led to a significant backlog at both the Regional Office level and at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, with appeals sometimes taking years to resolve.
In the Appeals Reform pilot program, RAMP, veterans have multiple appeal “lanes” from which to choose, each leading to a different type of review. VA hopes that replacing the single lane model of the Legacy system with multiple lanes will clear up the appeals backlog and make the process flow faster, hopefully resulting in shorter wait times and less frustration for veterans.
The Different Lanes Available in RAMP
Currently, RAMP offers two “lanes,” soon to be three, from which veterans submitting appeals can choose.
The two lanes available as of June 2018 are as follows:
The Supplemental Claim Lane
You can choose this lane if you wish to submit additional evidence or supporting documentation to strengthens your claim. You have 30 days after filing your appeal and selecting this lane to submit the additional evidence or inform VA that you need help gathering it. VA has a “duty to assist” in this lane which means it must help gather and obtain the evidence you need. A rating specialist reviews your appeal, including the new evidence.
The Higher-Level Review Lane
You can select this lane if you want to have a senior-level reviewer assess your appeal. However, you cannot submit additional evidence if you choose this lane, meaning that your appeal will be reviewed and decided based on the evidence of record.
Coming Soon: The Notice of Disagreement Lane
According to VA, the third appeal lane is set to become available to RAMP participants who have received a denial in October 2018. In this lane, known as the Board Lane, veterans who have received a RAMP denial will have the ability to submit their appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
This lane will have three dockets rather than the one currently being used in the Legacy system. These three dockets are as follows:
- Direct Docket: This docket is for veterans who want the Board to review the evidence that went before the Agency of Original Jurisdiction (usually the Regional Office). Veterans cannot add additional evidence if they select this docket.
- Evidence Only Docket: Veterans can submit evidence for up to 90 days after notifying VA they have selected the Board Lane. Veterans who choose the Evidence Only Docket will not have a hearing.
- Hearing Docket: Veterans who select the Hearing Docket will have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. They can also submit additional evidence for 90 days after their hearing takes place.
How Do I Opt in to RAMP?
As of April 1, 2018, you no longer have to receive an invitation letter to opt in to RAMP. RAMP is open to all veterans with pending appeals that are not currently before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
On the form, you must select in which RAMP lane you wish to file your appeal. If you choose the Supplemental Claim Lane, you may also provide your additional supporting evidence with the form, or you may send it later (as long as you do so within 30 days).
Note: You cannot opt out once you join RAMP, so you must be sure you are making the right decision before you fill out the form.
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