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.

Since November of 2017, the VA has been rolling out a new program intended to speed up the settlement of VA disability cases and reduce the backlog.

President Trump signed into law The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 in August of that year. Under this new law, veterans and their family members have a new option for how their compensation appeals will be processed. It is called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP. The goal of this program—the VA says---is to facilitate the earliest possible resolution of disagreements eligible veterans have with the VA.

Participation in RAMP is voluntary and is being first offered to vets with some of the oldest pending appeals in the VA’s inventory. Over a period of time the VA will be sending out notices to veterans eligible to participate in RAMP.  If you have received a RAMP notice, here’s what you need to know.

First, according to the VA, you can expect to receive a review of the VA’s initial decision on your claim faster in RAMP than in the current appeals process which the VA refers to as the legacy appeals process.  Many vets have sharply criticized the legacy appeals process for its inefficiency and excessive wait-times.  If you don’t want to participate in RAMP, you can do nothing and the VA will continue to process your appeal in the legacy process. If you decide to participate in RAMP, simply complete and return the election form found in the notice.

With RAMP you must choose one of the two, new processing “lanes” – Higher-Level Review or Supplemental Claim Lane. Select the Higher Level Review option if you have no additional evidence to submit in support of your claim but you believe that there was an error in the initial decision. The Higher-Level Reviewer will only consider evidence that was in VA’s possession at the time you opt-in. You or your representative will not be able to add new evidence if you are in the Higher Level Review lane. If you have additional evidence that is new and relevant to support your benefit claim, then you will want to select the Supplemental Claim Lane.

There are potential advantages and disadvantages in the RAMP program.

The advantages of RAMP include potentially faster decisions; the option to ask for a quick, fresh look at the decision the VA made in evaluating your case; and multiple review options. However, you need to fully consider that participating in RAMP has some disadvantages, as well, including never being able to go back to the legacy appeals process, not being able to take your claim directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals, and if your claim is again denied during your RAMP participation, you will not be able to appeal to the Board until at least February 2019.

If you have received a RAMP notification and are unsure of what is your next best move, then call us at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your case. And if you have applied for VA disability and were denied benefits, don’t give up. We can also review your case to see if you have grounds to appeal the denial.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska