No. Once you opt in to the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), you cannot opt out and return to the Legacy Appeals system (i.e., the current VA appeals system).
For this reason, it is imperative that you learn as much as possible about the program as well as its advantages and disadvantages before you make any decisions. Read on to learn more about RAMP.
What Is RAMP?
RAMP is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program intended to put the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act) to the test before it takes full effect in February 2019. The Act — and RAMP by extension — is the VA’s latest effort to streamline the appeals process and thus prevent future backlogs of appeals that result in long wait times for veterans.
RAMP offers three different “lanes” of appeal:
- The Higher-Level Review Lane: Your appeal goes to a senior claims adjudicator, a reviewer at a higher level than the rating specialist who originally reviewed — and denied — your claim. It is important to note that you cannot add more evidence to your claim in this lane.
- The Supplemental Claim Lane: This lane allows you to submit additional evidence and which will then be reviewed by a different rating specialist than the one who reviewed your claim originally.
- The Board (or Notice of Disagreement) Lane (Set to open in October 2018): When it opens, this lane will allow you to appeal a denial in RAMP to the to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
Your participation in RAMP is voluntary. You may choose to try the pilot program or remain in the current appeals system, known as the “Legacy” appeals system. Opting in to RAMP removes your appeal from the Legacy system, and thus you are unable to switch back if you are unhappy with the outcome.
Why Would I Want to Switch Out of RAMP?
On the surface, RAMP seems to be a good option for veterans frustrated with the slow-moving Legacy system. Instead of funneling all the claims into one lane, RAMP allows veterans to choose from three, theoretically making wait times shorter and ensuring your claim goes where it needs to go. However, this new system has not yet been tested, so opting in comes with a certain amount of risk.
The permanence of opting into RAMP as well as its relatively untested systems are good reasons to think hard before making the switch. While VA’s goal is to decide your appeal within 125 days (in the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim lanes) and so far RAMP claims have been processed in well-under 125 days, VA has issued no guarantee that claims will be resolved more quickly in RAMP than in the Legacy appeals system.
Can I Switch to Another Lane If I Picked the Wrong One?
No. Another risk you take when joining RAMP is choosing the wrong lane. If, for example, you choose the Higher-Level Review lane and later realize you needed to submit additional evidence to prove your case, you are stuck until a Higher-Level Review official makes another decision on your claim.
Once a decision is made, however, if you still disagree with the decision, you will be able to switch to another lane by appealing. You will have a one-year period from the date of your decision to appeal to another lane.
Call 800-544-9144 to Discuss Your Options with the CCK Team
Determining whether you should opt into RAMP is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. Our team is knowledgeable about the process and can help you determine whether you should remain in the Legacy system or opt in to RAMP. For a free consultation with a member of the CCK team, give us a call today: 800-544-9144.
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