The following article applies to the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (“RAMP”), a pilot appeals program for the Appeals Modernization Act (“AMA”). RAMP was in operation from November 2017 to February 2019 when AMA was fully implemented. Some of the information provided in that article may not apply to the new appeals system, AMA.
In 2017, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched a new initiative called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) after President Trump signed the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017 into law.
The RAMP initiative was created to provide faster resolution to appeals for claims benefits and address a backlog of over 450,000 claims. The goal of RAMP is to provide veterans who have eligible appeals with the “earliest possible resolution” of their disagreement with the VA’s decision on their claims.
The current process for appeals, which splits jurisdiction between the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the VA’s three administrations, is often confusing, complicated, and requires too many steps. Under that process, wait times for appeals decisions can be three–to–seven years. RAMP provides a voluntary option for veterans to “opt-in” to a new, faster, and more efficient process.
If you’re a veteran appealing a benefits claim, you may want to consider opting into RAMP. A skilled VA disability attorney can help you understand the changes in the appeals process.
How Does RAMP Work?
Due to long wait times for veterans who appealed their claims, RAMP was created with three different “lanes” for different types of claims. Here's a brief look at those three options:
- Higher-Level Review. Under this option, your claim will be fully reviewed by a new claims adjudicator. If you believe the VA made an error in its decision about your claim, you may want to choose this option. However, it’s important to note that the new review will only include evidence the VA already has—thus, you won't be able to submit additional evidence such as new reports from doctors, vocational experts, or psychologists, and you won’t be able to submit additional lay statements or other medical information.
- Supplemental Claim. Under this option, your review will be conducted by the same claims adjudicator who gave you a low rating or denied your claim entirely. You're allowed to submit new and relevant evidence, and the VA will try to process your appeal within 125 days. For this option to be successful, you need to be able to submit your new information quickly.
- Appeals to the Board. If the VA denies a veteran’s claim at the higher-level review, the veteran can still appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals. He will be placed at the front of the line.
Ultimately, it’s up to each veteran to decide which option best fits his or her needs. RAMP is designed to speed up the appeals process and the length of time it takes to make a determination on a claim; ensure that a fair decision is made; and provide safeguards that ensure all veterans’ claims are given the earliest effective date possible.
The VA says that opting into RAMP won’t change that date, which is critical. This date must be preserved to protect a veteran’s retroactive pay if the appeal is approved.
Timing and Deadlines
The new law goes into full effect in February 2019, and only new appeals are eligible. Currently, RAMP is by invitation. Many veterans who appealed a benefits claim have started to receive letters from the VA inviting them to opt-in to RAMP.
If veterans decide to participate in the program, they're not allowed to return to the initial appeals process.
If You Need Help With Your VA Disability Appeal
The attorneys at Cuddigan Law have filed thousands of appeals for veterans trying to get their benefits claims approved. Our firm fights hard for those veterans injured and disabled during their military service.
If you need help with a claims application or your appeal, the experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law will step you through the process and work with you to help ensure your best possible chance for getting an approved claim, whether you’ve submitted it for the first time or are waiting on an appeal.