In November 2017, the Veterans Administration announced the launch of the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP. The goal of the program is to provide veterans with the earliest possible resolution of disagreements they have with VA’s decision regarding benefit claims. RAMP is the first step in the implementation of the appeal reform outlined in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.
The recently enacted law does not take full effect until February 2019 and only applies to new appeals. RAMP will only be available by invitation until the full program is implemented sometime before February 2019. Some veterans with appeals currently pending have started receiving letters from the VA asking if they are interested in participating in RAMP. It should be noted that if a veteran chooses to participate in RAMP they will not be able to return to the old process.
The VA’s goal is to slowly grow this program over the next year or so until it can support the full load of every veteran’s appeal. Thus, they’ll be regularly sending out invites throughout the year, and once their infrastructure is solid enough, they’ll open the RAMP program up for everyone.
By February 2019, all requests for review of VA decisions will be processed under the new, multi-lane process. VA’s legacy appeals process was slow and complex. The new law streamlines the process and includes safeguards ensuring claimants receive the earliest effective date possible for their claims.
“At its core, VA’s mission is to provide Veterans with the highest quality of service,” said VA secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “The new process under the RAMP initiative reflects major steps in not only VA’s effort of continuous improvement, but also in providing greater choice for Veterans and their families.”
Three “lanes” of appeal
Under RAMP, veterans have the ability to choose one of three “lanes” to put their appeal in. If a vet picks the best lane for their type of case, then it will be reviewed much more quickly than the current system. If a vet picks the wrong lane or it is too complicated for a particular lane, it will then be transferred to the other lane or the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) longer line.
It’s important that you understand the types of cases that should be put in each lane so that the best decision for a VA appeal can be made.
Local Higher Level Review. This lane is for cases that don’t have any new evidence and are fairly straightforward. If the VA made an error and the evidence in the claim clearly proves their error, then this is the lane appropriate for a vet. The majority of appeals that don’t have new evidence will be fine in this lane.
New Evidence. This lane is for claims that have new evidence that wasn’t submitted with the original claim. If the VA made a decision about a case, but didn’t have all the evidence and a vet would like to submit additional evidence, then this is the lane appropriate. Vets should only submit to this lane if they have new evidence regarding conditions that the VA has not yet seen.
The Board. This lane sends a case directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). However, the BVA will not be reviewing cases under RAMP until February 2019 as they are already overwhelmed under the current system and need to focus on that.
Even under RAMP, more complicated cases must go to the BVA. Veterans who disagree with the decisions they receive in RAMP can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in the new process and have their appeal decided by the Board when the new law becomes effective in February 2019. Until then, the BVA will simply focus on the pending appeals in the current system.
For more information on RAMP
The Director of the VFW National Veterans Service, Ryan Gallucci, has produced an excellent YouTube video that gives an introduction to changes in the VA appeals process and the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program.
You can also visit the VA website for more information as well.