Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) letter in the mail, you might be wondering what your next steps should be.If you received the
Step 1: Understand What Your RAMP Letter Could Mean for You and Your Appeal
The RAMP letter is an invitation to move your appeal to the VA’s pilot program for the new appeals process which is set to start in February 2019.
In the Legacy appeals process (i.e., the current VA appeals system), veterans must follow a linear appeals process, with a pre-determined, specific type of appeal at each stage in the process. So, in the Legacy system, every appeal gets funneled into the same queue, regardless of the reason for denial or grounds for appeal. Years of processing appeals in this way has resulted in a substantial appeals backlog that leaves some veterans waiting years for a decision.
RAMP, on the other hand, creates three separate appeal lanes from which you can choose based on the reason for the denial from your original claim and how you want your claim reviewed the second time around. The lanes are as follows:
- Higher level review:Your claim goes to a reviewer who is higher up in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) than the rating specialist who reviewed and denied your initial application.
- Supplemental claim lane:You are able to submit new and relevant evidence to strengthen your original claim.
- Board (or “Notice of Disagreement (NOD)”) lane:Your appeal goes straight to Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA, or the Board) for review after a denial in RAMP. This lane is closed until October 2018.
Step 2: Learn About the Advantages and Disadvantages
The VA launched the RAMP pilot program with the hope that it would get decisions on appeals to veterans more quickly. For both the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim lanes, the VA hopes to get veterans the decisions on their appeals within 125 days. Though it is not yet open to RAMP participants, VA’s goal is to issue decisions on appeals in the Board lane within one year (if appellants have not submitted new evidence or requested a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge).
Additionally, it appears that the VA is issuing more favorable decisions on RAMP appeals than on legacy appeals. As of March 2018, the VA stated that 57 percent of RAMP appeals have been granted (as opposed to 25 percent of legacy appeals). When the Board Lane opens in October, however, we do not know whether that will go as quickly as with the other two lanes.
While less wait time is certainly a worthwhile benefit, there are a few disadvantages to opting in to RAMP:
- The decision to opt in to RAMP is final. Once you opt in to RAMP, you cannot switch back to the legacy appeals process.
- You cannot appeal to the Board until the third lane opens in October 2018. This means, if your appeal is close to receiving a hearing date with the Board in the legacy system, you could end up waiting even longer in RAMP than you would have waited in the legacy process.
- Your lane choice is final. If you choose the wrong lane (e.g., you needed to add more evidence to your appeal, but you chose the higher-level review lane), you must wait for the VA to issue a decision before you can change lanes.
Step 3: Discuss Your Options With a Lawyer
RAMP is not the right program for everyone. Discuss your case with a veterans disability advocate to determine whether it might be a good fit for you. A lawyer familiar with RAMP can go over the advantages and disadvantages to see what the best course of action for you is.
How Do I Opt Into RAMP?
If you decide to join RAMP, you must complete and send back the form that accompanied your letter.
I Received the Letter Months Ago. Can I Still Opt In?
As far as we know, these letters do not have an expiration date. However, it may take time to process your letter, so we suggest you fill out your form soon.
Call Us Today for a Free Consultation
The veterans law legal team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is here to help. For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about what we can do for you, give us a call today: 401-331-6300.
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