Should you participate in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?
In August 2017, the President signed into law, a new decision review process that proposes to provide a more “streamlined” review of VA disability claim decisions. The VA has recently began sending out selected veterans invitations to participate in the new Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) program.
What is Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?
There is not a lot of information about the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program since it is such a new program. Our attorneys are taking a cautious approach when it comes to advising clients on whether to opt in to the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, as there are some potentially adverse consequences for joining.
Currently, veterans invited to participate in RAMP are asked to choose between two lanes:
- Supplemental Claim Lane: the VA does not provide a description of who conducts these supplemental claim reviews, but does allow the veteran to submit evidence, provided it is new and relevant. Once a decision is made in this lane, the veteran may seek review under the Higher-Level Review Lane (see below), or may appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
- Higher-Level Review Lane: the VA states that an “experienced claim adjudicator” will conduct an entirely new review of your claim. If you choose this lane, you cannot submit additional evidence, regardless of how long it takes to adjudicate your claim. Because of this, if you are certain you want to participate in the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, we would not recommend you selecting this option.
The VA states that its goal is to complete claims in each lane in an average of 125 days. Again, since this is a new program, there is no data available to confirm that the VA will be able to process your claim in this time period.
Who is eligible for Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?
The VA has restricted access to this program to only those invited, and specifically only to those in one of four appeal stages:
- Notice of Disagreement (NOD) has been filed
- Form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) has been filed
- Appeal certified to the Board (but not activated)
- Your decision has been remanded by the Board
If you choose to join the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, you will have 60 days to respond to your invitation.
What happens if I participate in Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)?
Since this is still a new program, the long-term consequences of opting into RAMP are unknown. If you participate, you may lose your place in line at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. If you have been waiting a long time, this may especially be detrimental for your appeal. For those in the Notice of Disagreement phase, seeking another review prior to applying to the Board may be beneficial, though any adverse decisions under the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program may not be appealed until February 2019 at the earliest.
It is important to note that if you do decide to proceed with your appeal under the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, you will not be foregoing any additional appeal rights (such as an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals after receiving an adverse decision by a RAMP adjudicator). However, as noted above, appeals of RAMP decisions will not be processed by the Board until February 2019, at the earliest.
If you have any questions regarding the VA’s new Rapid Appeals Modernization Program or your VA disability claim, a skilled veteran’s law attorney can help you obtain the compensation you earned. We only charge a fee if your appeal is successful.
Do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky, McAuliffe, PC or its disability arm, Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group to obtain the assistance you need. Our conveniently located Denver office can be reached at (303) 534-1958 or by completing a quick and convenient online form.