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Revisiting the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)

Revisiting RAMP (Rapid Appeals Modernization Program)

In this video, we summarize our evolving knowledge about RAMP and the new appeals process. We also give some background about the legacy appeals process that may help veterans decide which system is right for their claim. To help illustrate, we made diagrams that represent the legacy appeals process and the new appeals process.



Robert: Good afternoon, Facebook Live. This is Robert Chisholm from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. With me is Michelle DeTore and Bradley Hennings. Michelle, tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been working at CCK.

Michelle: Sure, I am an Accredited Practitioner. I handle cases that are before the Regional Office in the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. I actually have now been working at CCK for six years and actually, two weeks ago was my six-year anniversary.

Robert: Brad, how about yourself?

Brad: I’m Brad Hennings and I’ve been working in CCK for far less time. I just joined the firm last month, prior to that I worked as a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and I’ve also worked at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims so, I’ve worked quite a bit with the agency itself.

Robert: So, today we’re going to talk about RAMP. The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, RAMP – the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program. We’ve had one prior conversation about this and you can see that prior conversation on our website and on Facebook and on YouTube but, we’ve had a change of how we’re handling RAMP cases now and that’s based on some new information that we’ve obtained both from speaking to folks at the VA, both in the central office and at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and recently there was a hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee and I believe that hearing was on January 30th, and that’s also available for any of you that want to listen to it. We’ve listened to it, it was about two and a half hours long but there was a lot of information in that hearing and we thought it would be important at this point to revisit RAMP and talk about how RAMP might help some of you get your appeals decided quicker and in fact, we’ve had a change of heart and we’re going to be putting appeals, some of our appeals into the RAMP program.

So, in order to really talk about RAMP, I think, it’s really important to understand first of all what the current appeals process looks like and talk about those timelines. And then we’ll go through how RAMP will work and then, eventually starting in February 2019 when the new appellate process comes in to exist in the appeals reform, how that will work. So we’re going to cover all of this and if any of you have any questions, please feel free to stop us and ask questions and we’ll answer them to the best of our ability. I can tell you we don’t know the answer to everything yet about RAMP but we have some more information and as I said, we’re going to share that with you. I think, at the outset one thing we all agree on is that, this is a very complicated issue. How which way you want your appeal to be decided? That is, do you want to stay in the current, what we call the Legacy Process or do you want to go in to RAMP? In making that decision I think, it’s really important for veterans and their dependents who have claims to speak to someone that has experience in the process whether that’s a Veterans Service Organization or an accredited representative, an attorney, I think it’s important to get some information before you decide this and there are certainly a lot of consequences depending on what decision you make.

So Michelle, I’d like to start off by talking about the Legacy Appeals and we’ve got this little handy-dandy chart here you’re going to give us, and this chart is also available right now in our Facebook website so, please feel free to look at that but we’re going to go through here, we’re going to make sure this looks okay. Do we look okay? All right so, person starts a claim filing it, where do they file it?

Michelle: So if you’re filing a claim, you’re filing it at the VA Regional Office which is located usually, one in every state, once you file a claim the next step is you’re waiting for what they call a Rating Decision, that’s also issued by the VA Regional Office. If you disagree with the VA Regional Office’s Rating Decision, you’re filing a Notice of Disagreement and you have one year to file that appeal from the date of the Notice of Action Letter. Once you file the appeal, you’re filing your Notice of Disagreement, the next step is you’re usually getting a Statement of the Case, that’s here. You have sixty-days to appeal that decision. At this point in time, you’re filing a VA-9 Appeal and you’re actually appealing to the Board. However, you can also get a Supplemental Statement of the Case we call it an SSOC for short, no matter what your file is still on the way to the Board but you have thirty days at this point in time to submit any additional evidence or argument you want in support of your appeal. You can also request a hearing if you want before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and at this point in time, now you’re off the Board or the Board is going to issue a decision.

They can do one of three things primarily, they can remand your case back to the agency of original jurisdiction which is the VA Regional Office, they grant your appeal or they can deny it and, if they deny it then you’re on your way to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and you have a hundred and twenty days to appeal that Board denial and then, if you still you get a decision from the court at that point in time and if you disagree with the court decision, you can also go to the Federal Circuit.

Robert: We stopped at the Federal Circuit but there is limited review in the Supreme Court as well if you disagree with something that the Federal Circuit decides. I think, there’s only been four or five cases that have been appealed to the Supreme Court successfully. All right, so the important thing here is this is what we now call Legacy Appeals and that is the appeals that are currently have been filed for people who have not opted in. This is going to be the system at least through February 2019, and I think it’s important Michelle, to talk about the timelines. Generally speaking, from a claim to a Rating Decision, the Regional Offices are trying to get those decisions done in 125 days and frankly, they’ve been meeting that goal I think, 85 to 90% of the time. That’s the latest data that we have on that and those numbers may have changed but after that, the process takes a long time. So, from Notice of Disagreement to a decision by the Board, generally taking according to the statistics from the VA about, six years, that’s a long, long wait. From the VA-9 when you file that to the Board decision, generally speaking, it’s taking about three years. One of the things I did want to point out is over the last two years and Brad, I think you can speak to this better than anyone because you were inside working at the Board when this happened. They have increased the number of both attorneys, what they call staff attorneys that work on decisions and Veterans Law Judges to hopefully increase the number of decisions they make. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Brad: Yeah, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals has been very busy hiring or ramping up to deal with all of the appeals. In the last eighteen months to two years, they’ve hired about 250 additional staff attorneys and brought on about another 40 Veterans Law Judges to handle it. It’s my understanding they’re on track to issue 81,000 Board decisions this year which is a substantial increase over last year which was about 50,000.

Robert: That is indeed a big increase because historically, they’ve been in the high 40s to mid-50s in terms of 49,000 to 55,000 decisions, they do have it. So, there’s a tremendous backlog between the Notice of Disagreement and the Board, and that number depending on who you ask is around 470,000 appeals, if you will. If all those goes to the Board and aren’t resolved somewhere along this process, that’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the Board. Each year, new claims being filed is over 1.1, 1.2 million inbound claims. So, this process is not working in terms of getting timely decisions made after the initial decisions so, if you appeal, it’s going to be a long time in this process. So, let’s put this chart down and bring up the other one.

Michelle: Sure.

Robert: Congress just enacted a new law that allows the VA beginning in February 2019 to go in to this new appeals process and we’re going to walk through this. I think, it’s important to point out and I should’ve mentioned this at the beginning that there was a government shutdown for a few hours but Congress reached an agreement and so, my understanding is the President just signed the new budget in to law so, they will be up and running again on Monday, presumably. Brad, you’ve lived through a shutdown for the government?

Brad: Yes, I have.

Robert: And, that can be a little disconcerting for work, for employees of the federal government but that shouldn’t really impact any of this so, that’s good news that the government shutdown is over. And so let’s talk about how appeals reform is going to work. This is how claims will be decided when appeals reform goes in to effect. The earliest it can go in to effect if February 2019. VA is optimistic that that’s when the process will start but there’s a couple of things VA needs to do and get in place before this can go live so, we’re saying February 2019 but it may be longer than that. You would file a claim at the Regional Offices like you do now. The first thing that would happen is you would get a Rating Decision. The new Rating Decision’s going to have what they call, Enhanced Notice– we’re moving this a little bit to make sure we’re in the frame– and, what’s interesting about the Enhanced Notice is it’s going to inform the claimant, the veteran of the aspects of the claim that VA agrees the veteran has satisfied and will also inform the veteran of those aspects of the claim that haven’t been satisfied.

So for example, if we were going to talk about a back injury, and the veteran’s filing a claim for back injury, they would say that the veteran had honorable service so that they meet what they call, the status requirement. They may say that the veteran has a current back disability and they may say that the veteran had an incident in service where they injured their back. So those are some of the aspects of the claim that will have been found to be positive in the veteran’s favor. But if they denied the claim they’re going to have to explain why they denied it. So, they might say for example, “There’s no medical opinion that says that the current disability that the veteran suffers with the back was related to an incident that happened in 1991 in Gulf War One,” for example. And then if that happens you now know that you have to get medical evidence to satisfy that element, what we call the ‘element of the claim’ so you would get this Enhanced Notice — that’s a good thing for the system. I think, we can all agree with that because the current notice letters really don’t give you that kind of information.

Brad: No, they tend to be full of legalese and are really incomprehensible for most people.

Robert: So if the claim is denied, there are three different lanes you can go into. The first lane is what we call, Higher Level Review, and I’m just taking them not in any particular order, but Higher Level Review is going to review the exact same evidence that was submitted at the time of the rating decision and the Higher Level Review will result in a new rating decision. If you– taking our back case, for example — if you realize that you need to submit that medical opinion, you can’t go to Higher Level Review because they can only review the record that was before the VA at the time of the initial rating decision. You would want to go in the Supplemental Claim Lane. And, what the Supplement Claim Lane means is that the VA would consider that new evidence, that new medical opinion, hopefully grant it and then, they would issue a new rating decision. If you’re denied that Higher Level Review, you can either go in to the Supplemental Claim Lane or you can go into the third lane, the Notice of Disagreement Lane. Now, the interesting thing about the Notice of Disagreement Lane is you go right to the Board and there are a couple of different options, and I’m not going to get into that right now, but essentially they involve whether you want to submit more evidence to the Board, have a hearing before the Board. But there’s no longer this lengthy process for the Statement of the Case, Notice of Disagreement right to the Board.

And then, the process is really the same because you will still have 120 days to appeal to the court and then, the interesting thing is, if you get a decision from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that you’re not satisfied with, you still have a year to go all the way back to the Supplemental Claim Lane and submit new and relevant evidence and then, you would preserve the effective date. So there’s a lot of benefits in our opinion to this new appeal system and that’s how it’s going to play out. Here’s the part that we now need to discuss: How does RAMP impact all this and what does RAMP mean, and why are veterans getting these letters? So VA wanted to do a test pilot project and the test pilot project is RAMP, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program– I have to keep remembering what the acronym stands for, so just bear with me here — and two of the three lanes are now open for veterans and I believe a few thousand veterans have now gotten this notice. I’m not sure whether it’s 15,000 or 20,000 veterans have now gotten what’s called a RAMP letter to opt in. And so, the first thing you need to know is if you want to opt in to this system, you can’t choose the Notice of Disagreement Lane, you can do Higher Level Review or you can opt in to the Supplement Claim, okay?

So, let’s suppose a veteran received a decision in the Legacy System, filed a Notice of Disagreement, that person gets a RAMP Letter, they will then be able to opt in to Higher Level Review or Supplemental Claim. If the claim is fully developed that is, they have all the elements of the claim so they have evidence that they have a discharge that makes them a qualified veteran, if they have evidence of an incident in service for the back injury case we were talking about, if they have a current disability for the back case and if they have a medical nexus opinion, Higher Level Review might be the way to go because let’s go get– bring the other one back up. We’re going to switch back and forth between the two. We know that in the Legacy System, from the Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, it’s going to take six years, okay? And, we know from the VA Form-9 to the Board decision, it’s going to take three years, and these are averages. Obviously some claims may be decided faster, other claims may take longer, all right? So if you could theoretically, you get a RAMP letter, you will opt in, you remember you filed your Notice of Disagreement, you believe you have all your evidence, you jump in to Higher Level Review Lane, VA is telling us that you’re trying to decide this quickly under 125 days and so far, on average it’s 35 to 40 days of the people that have opted in to RAMP. You’re going to get a decision very quickly, but it’s a one-way opt in.

So if you opt in from Legacy Appeals to the RAMP program, you cannot go back to Legacy Appeals. So that’s the first major thing you want to consider before opting in. If you believe– if you want to opt in and you need to submit more medical evidence or lay statements or whatever else you need to develop your claim, you can opt in and go in to Supplemental Claim Lane. So, from the hearing testimony for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, we learned a few things. The first thing we learned was that, only 3% of the people that were given a RAMP letter have opted in, and Brad what do you think the reason is for that? I have my theory but you may have a different reason?

Brad: Well, I think the biggest reason is fear of the unknown. This is an untested system and if you’ve been in the veterans disability process for a long time as many of these veterans have, I think asking them to take a leap of faith, which is what we’re asking veterans to do, is challenging. So I think that that’s one of the reasons why so few have opted in so far.

Robert: So, let me just say who we are again, this Robert Chisholm from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, with me is Michelle DeTore and Brad Hennings and we’re talking about RAMP. We’ve done an overview of the Legacy Appeals System and we’re now talking about how RAMP will work and whether or not you should opt in and some things to consider. I want to be clear, we’re not here to give you advice in your individual claims, we’ll just sort of talk as an overview things to consider in making the most informed decision you can about your appeals. Okay so the other thing I wanted to say was you’ll get an Enhanced Notice in RAMP so when you get a decision it’s going to tell you what aspects of the claim the VA believes you’ve satisfied and what aspects of the claim the VA believes you have not satisfied and that’s really important because then you can concentrate on the piece of the puzzle of your claim that VA thinks is missing and at that point, you can go out and get that evidence. So let’s suppose you go to Higher Level Review and it’s still denied and VA says, “You’re missing that medical opinion,” well, you can go out and get the medical opinion and then you can go back in to the Supplemental Claim Lane, and I believe you have one year to do that. So you get a decision from Higher Level Review, if you get a decision from Higher Level Review you have then one year to go out and get an opinion or whatever evidence is missing and then, jump in to the Supplemental Claim Lane.

Again if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask us. If anyone has experienced being in RAMP and wants to share that with us as well, we’d love to hear from you to see how it has worked for you. So we represent a number of clients across the country. Quite a few of our veterans have received RAMP letters and I want to go back to the other chart for a moment to show where most of the veterans appear to be that are getting the RAMP letters. So this again is the Legacy Appeals System, initially, the VA was sending RAMP letters to veterans who have filed the Form-9 and are waiting for a Board decision during this sort of, three-year window, if you will. Now, there’s another important point and Michelle pointed this out, the Board can grant a claim, deny a claim or remand the claim. If they remand it, it goes back to the Regional Office and they will issue an SSOC. So veterans who were between the Form-9 and the BVA decision and veterans whose claims had been remanded and were either received an SSOC or waiting for an SSOC, those were the initial group of veterans that were invited to participate in RAMP. And Brad, my understanding is that, that was because these were the longest pending appeals, that’s where they wanted to start.

Brad: That’s my understanding as well, because those veterans have been waiting for the longest amount of time, they were hoping that some of those veterans would be interested in what they considered a faster–  what they think would be a faster resolution of the appeal.

Robert: But there’s some consequences if you were in this sort of space here, either you have been remanded or you were waiting for that Board decision, you’ve giving up your right in some respects to get the Board to decide it sooner rather than later.

Brad: And, that’s a great point. I mean, one of the things about some of the appeals are that the veterans may want someone– a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the attorneys there because it’s all attorneys at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to take a look at their claim and by opting in to the new RAMP program it would take longer for that to happen because the Regional office adjudicators are typically not lawyers or judges deciding the claims.

Robert: So what’s happened with the more recent letters and the letters are going out at the beginning of each month, we believe about 15,000 to 20,000 are going out at the beginning of each month. They’ve now expanded the group of veterans that are eligible for RAMP and by the way, if you don’t get a letter you’re not able to opt in, that’s also our understanding. You can’t call up the VA and say, “Please, send me a letter,” they’ll be the ones to send you a letter, at least I don’t think you can do that. So now folks that have filed a Notice of Disagreement, some of them are getting RAMP letters. And this is important because again, we’ve said that it’s six years from the time you file Notice of Disagreement to the time– sorry, you get a Board decision. So let’s think about this in terms of RAMP, if we have a veteran whose claim we believe is fully developed, that is we have all the evidence we need and they file the Notice of Disagreement, they’re going to wait six years in RAMP– I’m sorry, they’re going to wait six years in the Legacy Appeals System — they will not wait six years for a decision in RAMP. Here’s why, they’re making these decisions, so we’ve got a rating decision, we opted in, we’re out of the Legacy System, we’re generally going to get a decision either in the Supplemental Claim Lane or the Higher Level Review Lane within about 120 days, and VA is saying right now, it’s about 35 to 40 days.

Now, here’s the risk, the risk– and, I believe it’s a minimal risk but it’s something that you need to think about is, if you’re still denied at the Higher Level Review and you believe you have all the evidence you need, you would then go in to the Notice of Disagreement Lane. You file the Notice of Disagreement and this lane here is not open yet, and what do we mean by that? We mean that, right now the way the system is set up these Notice of Disagreements are not going to go to the Board until the new appeals system is operational. The earliest that’s going to happen is in February 2019. But let’s say it isn’t February 2019 let’s say it’s August 2019, that’s still faster than waiting six years and these cases are going to be decided in a separate lane as we understand it now than the Legacy Appeals. So why’s that important, Brad?

Brad: I mean, really again, you’re talking about working in parallel where you’re going to have Legacy Appeals being worked and you’re going to have the new appeals reform appeals being worked and it’s really going to have to do with the lack of delay. It’ll be much faster to go through and get a Board decision at that point.

Robert: And, I think that’s right. And you know Michelle, you field of a lot of calls from our clients, our clients have been waiting years for decisions, they expressed a certain amount of anxiety about this, as you know?

Michelle: Yes, they do because they’re just not sure about the process. They’re not sure if this is going to be a good process for them, if it’s something they should do. They have a lot question about the specifics of the program, how it’s going to work, how it’s going to affect their case and they really just want advice of whether or not to do it. When they see something that says it’s going to be faster you know, your urge is to jump on it but they want to know what they’re actually looking into and what they’re getting into. So they’re curious about the program.

Brad: Actually, that brings up a really great point, I don’t think we can emphasize this enough and I know Robert emphasized this in the beginning and that is that, this is complicated. And so it’s really important for you to work with someone whether it’s a Veterans Service Organization representative or a VA Accredited Agent or attorney, whoever. Someone who’s knowledgeable about the process, that can help you make an informed decision as to whether it’s correct for you to be into.

Robert: And, when we say “informed decision” it’s based upon what we know now. Obviously, this is fluid in the sense that we’re continually getting new information and as we get more information we will both post about it and we may have another discussion about RAMP because honestly, this is where all the appeals are going to eventually going to have to go through this system and, even though only two lanes are open now, eventually there will be three lanes open. The other thing is, this whole system is as I understand it, designed to hopefully have cases finally decided at the agency level and to keep them out of the Board as much as possible. So you have this whole process where if you get a Higher Level Review decision and it tells you what evidence you’re missing, you’re going to want to jump into the Supplemental Claim Lane, get that evidence and hopefully get that granted. But at the end of the day if you have all the evidence you can obtain and you’re still not satisfied with the decision, you need to go the Notice of Disagreement and down to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and we think that’s really important.

So, what our firm is doing now is looking at where the claim is at at the time they get the RAMP letter and if they’re at the Notice of Disagreement stage in Legacy Appeals and they file that, we’re going to start putting those in to the Higher Level Review Lane, if you will, when we have all the evidence we believe we need to win the claim, and hopefully those will be granted. It’s our understanding from listening to the House Veterans Affairs Committee testimony that of the people that have opted in to RAMP, two-thirds have chosen Higher Level Review and one-third have chosen the Supplemental Claim Lane. Now, in Legacy Appeals, VA testified that the grant rate on appeals is 25%, okay? And, they’re saying the grant rate although it’s a small sample, I really want to emphasize this, I think it’s like 450 appeals so far that have transferred from Legacy to RAMP, the grant rate of those is about 61% and Brad, that seems really good to me but we don’t know what ‘grant’ really means in this context and can you explain why that’s important to know?

Brad: Well, I think it’s really a great point and that is, when we’re talking about grant rates, it’s not clear what that grant consists of and what I mean is, a grant could mean that a veteran is granted service connection meaning that their disability that they’re suffering from now is related to their military service so, that could be a grant that the VA said, yes. So they say yes but unfortunately, they only grant what they call a noncompensable rating and it doesn’t go back as far the veterans claim so, that’s a considered a win, so to speak, for the veteran. But it’s sort of a pyrrhic victory meaning, it’s not going to be as helpful as you think, it’s not as though the veteran’s getting 100% service-connected disability compensation.

Robert: So, although there are some positives here, we still don’t know everything we need to know yet about this system. One of the themes that came out that House Veterans Affairs Committee was the fact that this lane was closed, that you couldn’t go to the Board. My feeling and I don’t have any evidence to support this, but there’s going to be political pressure to open this lane up. So although it’s not open now my sense is at some point before February, 2019 in RAMP you may be able to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and if that turns out to be true I think, more and more people will feel comfortable opting in to this system. And frankly, the reason for that is you’ll get a faster decision on appeal, you’ll get a faster decision from the Board if ultimately you’re not satisfied, you can always go back within a year after the Board decision or a year after the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Decision with new and relevant evidence and start over at the Supplemental Claim.

Brad: Well I was going to say I think the reason that’s so important as you’ve illustrated about having this lane open, the Board Lane open, is because there are going to be times where the case is more complex and for whatever reason, you’re not going to be able to get it resolved at the Regional Office level and those are the kind of cases that the Board historically does a better job at every level of that, same thing with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the more the complicated the case gets, the more time and attention it gets further on in the process so, there’s always going to be a certain number of cases that probably need to go to the Board.

Robert: Okay, why don’t we put this down, Michelle and let’s talk about sort of the IT systems and, IT you know, Information Technology systems through the VA. So, they didn’t really have to change their main system which is VBMS so, VA’s going to be able to process these in VBMS and that’s a good thing, we think with a couple of changes.

Brad: That appears to be what they’ve said.

Robert: Okay, and we learned that from the testimony of the Deputy Secretary, Mr. Bowman, is that correct? At the hearing he said that they’re on track for full implementation in February 2019 for the new appeals process so, that’s good news, right? Again, we’re talking about RAMP, the new appeals process at the VA. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us about any of this and especially if any of you have any experience using RAMP, and if you have any results we’d love to hear that as well. The other thing that came up at the hearing was GAO testified, and GAO is the Government Accounting Office and can you tell us what they what their role in the process is at these hearings?

Brad: So, the Government Accountability Office or GAO, their role is to make sure that federal programs are being run well and by ‘well’ I mean, that the administrators of the programs are utilizing tax-payers’ money wisely and so, they really spend a lot of time looking at programs and seeing are they doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Are there any potential pitfalls or problems and they’re sort of, minding the store, if you will, on these programs.

Robert: And, they have some pointed comments, I would say, at that hearing.

Brad: Yes. The GAO seems to have some significant concerns for the entire appeals reform and for the RAMP program in particular and it has to do with resources that some of those they claim that there’s a lack of metrics to measure progress and it’s not clear how VA is going to really get it all accomplished particularly by February 2019 — they had their doubts.

Robert: I am more optimistic now about RAMP than I was before especially because for those veterans who have recently filed appeals, the Notice of Disagreement stage or who within the last year say have filed the VA-9 appeal and they’ve been invited in. I think those are the group of veterans that should seriously consider opting in to RAMP. Again I think it’s really important to get advice from a Veteran Service Organization, accredited representative or an attorney before you make that kind of decision because each case is unique but there could be some real benefits and our firm is going to start this month in February putting some cases in to RAMP after we speak to our clients and get their permission. I believe it will be successful and we will keep you posted on some of those results to the extent the clients let us share that information with you in sort of general terms. Any other thoughts about RAMP or the appeals reform that we haven’t covered that maybe we should cover?

Michelle: I think it’s important to know that not every case is able to go in to RAMP. They’ve kind of have a criteria set for it right now. So, if your file’s currently certified before the Board, they’re not going to send you an invitation to enter into this program. So it’s just good to be aware of the fact that because of where your case is in the Legacy Program, you may not get an invitation into the program.

Robert: And, I think that’s an important point, not everyone is going to get invited in and just because you haven’t received a letter yet, doesn’t mean in the coming months you might not receive a letter so– and, I don’t believe there’s any way to trigger. We have a question about; How do you know if your case has been certified to the Board? One way to find out is to call the Board of Veterans’ Appeal up and ask them whether the case has been certified and they will tell you whether it’s been certified. In fact, they can actually tell you the date it was certified, if I understand that correctly.

Brad: That’s correct, they can look it up in their computer system to find that information out.

Michelle: Yeah.

Robert: If your case has not been certified to the Board, you may want to consider if you get a RAMP letter, jumping into RAMP because it could still be quite a long time before you get there. Any other final thoughts?

Michelle: So, just because you get a RAMP letter let’s say you got one in December and at that time you were unsure about the process, doesn’t mean that you can’t opt in now. From my understanding, they’re still sending out monthly letters to follow back up to see if you’re still interested so, you will likely get a follow-up letter so, getting you an opportunity to opt in later.

Robert: I think that’s a really good point because they’re sending second letters to opt in and they’re sending emails and it doesn’t say in the letter that you have to opt in by say, March 1st, 2018 so, for those of you who haven’t yet opted in or are thinking about it, you got a letter a couple of months ago, I think you’re still good to go on there as far as we understand.

Brad: And the VA disability process and the appeals process, in particular, can be very complicated, it can seem very daunting. So again, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a Veterans Service Organization, an agent or an attorney to try to get some advice on the best way to proceed.

Robert: If there are no more questions, we’re going to be– we’re going to be signing off. Before we sign off I just wanted to say again, thank you for watching this afternoon. Please share this with your friends so that they’ll know we’ve had this conversation and they can look at it and if you have any questions, please reach out to us at Again, this Robert Chisholm from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Michelle, Brad thanks for hanging out with me this afternoon and help explain RAMP. We look forward to our next conversation with you. Thank you.