According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), appeals reform will take effect on February 14, 2019 at the earliest. However, VA first needs to promulgate regulations before it can take effect.
What Is Appeals Reform?
The new appeals system was designed with the expectation that VA will process disability benefit appeals more quickly and prevent a backlog of appeals from forming. Codified into law in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (VAIMA, Appeals Modernization Act, or the Act), this new system allows veterans to choose from three different lanes to file their appeals.
How Different Will the New Appeals System Be from the Current System?
The current system, known as the “Legacy appeals” system, is infamous for its long wait times. The new appeals system will have three appeal lanes veterans can choose from:
- Higher Level Review. Here, a veteran can request that someone at a higher level than a standard rating specialist review their appeal. By choosing this option, the veteran forfeits the ability to submit additional evidence with their appeal.
- Supplemental Claim. In this lane, veterans have the ability to include additional evidence with their appeal. This is the only lane in which VA has the duty to assist veterans in gathering evidence for their claim.
- Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Veterans can appeal their case directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for review. This allows veterans to skip a second level of review at a VA Regional Office. In this lane, veterans can choose whether they want a Board hearing. To make this process more efficient, the Board will have three dockets: one for veterans who do not submit additional evidence and do not want a hearing; one for veterans who are submitting additional evidence and do not want a hearing; and one for veterans who would like a hearing and may also submit additional evidence.
How Do I Opt-In to Appeals Reform?
Once Appeals Reform is fully implemented, there will be no opt-in requirement as that will be the only way to appeal your decision. The Appeals Reform system is currently accessible via the RAMP pilot program.
Can I Opt-Out of the New Appeals System?
No. Effective February 2019, “all requests for review of VA decisions will be processed under the new, multi-lane process,” according to VA. Once a veteran opts in to RAMP, they will not be able to return to the Legacy appeals system.
What Is this Other Appeals Program I Have Heard About?
The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) is the pilot program for the new appeals process. RAMP opened to all veterans on April 1, 2018.
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Under the new appeals system VA should be able to process appeals more quickly, but receiving a grant can still be much more difficult than it should be.« Return to the Veterans' Resource Center
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