22 Feb What is the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)? – Does it Affect You?
On November 1, 2017, President Trump signed into a law the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (known as “RAMP”). The new law passed with bipartisan support, as its goal is to streamline and expedite veterans disability appeals. Still, like most things in D.C., the new law is not without criticism. Here’s what disabled veterans should know about the new law, including how it may affect individual appeals going forward.
What Is “RAMP?”
The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program was created by the “Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017,” a new law that aims to shorten the time necessary for VA to hear appeals for veterans seeking disability compensation.
What Does “RAMP” Do?
According to the text of the new law, it will create three pathways for appeals.
This is the traditional claims appeals process through which all pending appeals are currently handled. It consists of filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and requesting an appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). Appeals may be taken up before a Decision Review Officer. These claims often take several years to resolve, given current backlogs.
If a veteran is eligible for the new RAMP appeals process, then he or she can “opt-in” and proceed through either of the following channels:
If there is new evidence to submit, the veteran can submit new evidence with the appeal, and VA states that the appeal decision should be rendered within 125 days. Of course, VA doesn’t say much about whether this will lead to more accurate decisions or just faster ones. After all, a fast but erroneous denial is no better than a slow one.
Higher Level Reviews
For veterans who believe that VA made an error in the decision, this process is designed to allow a senior claims handler to make a second review of the claim, based on the exact same information that was available to VA at the time of the original claim.
Is RAMP Available for Your Appeal?
It’s only an option for those veterans who meet one of these requirements:
- Filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
- Filed a Form 9 – Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals
- Appeal has been certified, but no decision has been rendered
- Case has been remanded (sent back) from the Board of Veterans Appeals
Pros and Cons of RAMP
As with many past attempts to improve VA appeals processes, we will have to wait to see whether the new program truly leads to faster (and more accurate) appeals decisions. It is still too early to tell if the new law will have the desired effect. A few things are clear, however, and should be addressed.
- VA alleges that RAMP will be more efficient
- “Potentially” faster decisions
- Multiple options for review (it should be noted that there are already multiple options for appealing a claims decision, and veterans can always submit new medical evidence)
- Veterans can’t appeal a RAMP decision to BVA until February 2019
- You can’t go back to the Legacy Appeals Process
- Cannot appeal directly to the BVA (as you can now)
Why You Need a VA Accredited Attorney
It’s yet to be proven whether the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program will achieve its goal of reducing the backlog of VA disability appeals. In our experience, the best way to ensure good results in appealing a VA disability decision is to work closely with an experienced veteran’s disability attorney. Regardless the path you choose, Klok Law Firm LLC is ready and willing to assist with your VA appeal. Contact us to get started today.