The VA created the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) in order to test the reforms codified into law by the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The major impetus for these reforms was to address the biggest complaint with the current appeals process: that it takes far too long for veterans to receive decisions on their appeals. Per the VA’s website, it created RAMP to provide “eligible appellants with the earliest possible resolution of their disagreement with VA’s decision on their claim.”
It also allows participating veterans to take part in certain aspects of the new veterans disability appeals process (outlined in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017) which will take effect in February 2019.
Note: On February 19, 2019 the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) was officially implemented, thus ending the Rapid Appeals Modernization program. The most up-to-date information on the AMA can be found on our page: Veterans’ Appeals Reform.
How Is RAMP Different than the Typical Appeals Process?
Under the current appeals process, known as the “legacy” appeals process, it is not uncommon for veterans to wait over a year before hearing if the VA has granted them benefits or denied their appeal. This is on top of the time it took for them to hear back on their initial application.
RAMP also gives choices to veterans appealing their claim denial. Rather than all appeals getting pushed down the same funnel, RAMP currently has two separate appeal lanes, each funneling applications to a different VA department.
How Does RAMP Work?
RAMP seeks to break up the backlog common to the appeals process by creating two different lanes through which appeals can flow:
- The higher-level review lane: Appeals sent through this lane get reviewed by a higher-level reviewer (a senior claims adjudicator) than the rating specialist who reviewed (and denied) the initial application.
- The supplemental claim lane: Veterans appealing through this lane can submit additional evidence to support their claim, then have it reviewed by a rating specialist, though not the same one who denied the initial claim.
Note: There is a third option in which a veteran can appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; however, that lane is not anticipated to be open until October 2018.
The VA hopes that by splitting appeals into multiple lanes, it can break up the backlog that causes the delays in the current appeals process. The VA hopes to get veterans who participate in RAMP a decision within an average of 125 days.
Is RAMP Faster Than a Traditional (or “Legacy”) Appeal?
VA appeals reform was passed with the goal of making the appeals process much faster than the traditional, or “legacy” appeal process. But as of March 2018, VA makes no guarantees that a veteran who opts into the appeals reform pilot program, RAMP, will receive a faster decision on their appeal than one who stays with the legacy program.
Also, because RAMP has not existed for very long — the VA announced the program in November 2017 — not enough data exists at this time to determine if appeals are indeed moving faster through it than those in the legacy process.
What Are the Benefits of Switching to RAMP?
If RAMP ends up operating like the VA hopes it does, opting in will offer two primary benefits. In theory, it should result in a faster turn-around time from date of claim filed to decision, as RAMP participants will not be contending with the Legacy backlog.
The other benefit involves choice. Depending on the reason the VA denied your initial application, you and your appointed representative might prefer to have your appeal sent to a higher-level reviewer, or you might find it advantageous to submit additional evidence for another person at the regional office to review.
Once again, though, the full benefits of RAMP will not be clear until the program has been in operation long enough to accumulate meaningful data.
What Are the Drawbacks of Switching to RAMP?
Switching to RAMP has two main drawbacks. One, it is a permanent decision. Once you opt into RAMP, you cannot return to the legacy system.
Also, you cannot appeal a RAMP denial to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals until October 2018, regardless of when you receive the denial.
For these reasons, you should consider speaking with a VA disability lawyer before making any decisions. Your attorney can review your situation and let you know, based on the specifics of your appeal, whether it makes sense to opt into RAMP.
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