Yes, if you received a RAMP letter a long time ago, you can still opt in. In fact, as of April 1, 2018, you can opt in even if you never received an invitation letter for the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP).
Qualifying Criteria to Opt-In to RAMP
All veterans with pending appeals will have the option to leave the old process, known as the “Legacy” appeal system and join RAMP. A pending appeal means it is in one of the following stages:
- You filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD);
- You filed a VA Form 9;
- Your appeal has been certified but not “activated” for a Board decision;
- The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) has remanded your appeal to the Regional Office.
Steps to Opt-In to RAMP
Moving your appeal from the Legacy system to RAMP is straightforward.
Step 1: You must fill out the opt-in form that accompanied your letter.
Step 2: Choose the lane that will best fit your needs (discussed in the next section).
Step 3: Mail or fax your opt-in form:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Note: Be sure to place the included cover page on top of your opt-in form.
Advantages of Opting-In to RAMP
RAMP is a pilot program for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiative to improve the VA appeals process. Once the new process takes shape, VA hopes that the chronic backlogs of the Legacy system will be a thing of the past.
And while the phrase “pilot program” can be a little nerve-racking, it appears that RAMP is issuing more grants and doing so more quickly than the Legacy appeals system. As of May 2018, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had granted 39 percent of RAMP appeals, as opposed to 25 percent of Legacy appeals.
The new appeals system, which should take effect in February 2019, creates three separate lanes for disability appeals:
- Supplemental Claim Lane: This lane allows you to submit additional evidence with your appeal for review. This is the only lane in which VA has the duty to assist veterans in the evidence-gathering process. In the new appeals system, additional evidence must be “new and relevant.”
- Higher-Level Review Lane: A higher-level employee than the one who reviewed your initial claim will review your appeal and make a decision. However, in this lane, you cannot submit any additional evidence with your appeal.
- Board of Veterans’ Appeals Lane: You can appeal directly to the Board. This lane does not open to RAMP participants until October 2018. This means that only veterans who have received a denial in one of the other two lanes, Supplemental Claim or Higher-Level Review, can file an appeal via the Board lane. Veterans who have appeals pending in the Legacy system cannot opt in to RAMP and immediately select the Board lane. In the Board lane, there are three dockets: one for veterans who request a hearing for their appeal; one for veterans who submit additional evidence only and do not request a hearing; and one for veterans who do not request a hearing or submit any additional evidence in support of their appeal. This helps speed up those waiting to get their case in front of the Board.
Ideally, the creation of three lanes will keep appeals flowing through each lane more efficiently and will result in faster decisions.
What If I Decide RAMP Is Not Right for Me? Can I Return to the Legacy System?
No. The decision to move your case over to RAMP is permanent. Once you switch your appeal over to RAMP, it ceases to exist in the Legacy system. However, you are able to switch appeal lanes when you file an appeal of an unfavorable decision received in the new appeals system.
For a Free VA Disability Claim Evaluation, Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick at 800-544-9144
At Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD, our attorneys focus on helping disabled veterans get the benefits they deserve. We want to help you with your appeal and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. To schedule a free evaluation, call us today at 800-544-9144.« Return to the Veterans' Resource Center
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