VA NEWS: Rapid Appeals Modernization Program to end ahead of implementation of new Veteran appeals law
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will discontinue the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) (see below), which provided eligible Veterans with early resolutions to their appealed claims, ahead of full implementation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 that takes effect Feb. 19, 2019.
VA will not accept RAMP elections from Veterans with a legacy appeal after Feb. 15, 2019; however, RAMP claims pending on or after Feb. 15 will continue to be processed until the inventory is complete.
Beginning Feb. 19, Veterans who appeal a VA decision will have three decision review choices: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. VA will now offer Veterans greater choice in how VA reviews their claim is committed to ensuring the claims process is accurate, timely and fair.
“VA has been preparing for full implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act over the past 18 months to ensure the new, streamlined process is available to Veterans who have long sought reform of the broken legacy system,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We encourage Veterans whose appeal is currently in the legacy system to opt in to RAMP before February 15 to take full advantage of the benefits of the new process.”
VA initiated RAMP in November 2017 to provide some of the benefits of the new law’s streamlined process before full implementation. Participation in RAMP is voluntary. However, processing times under the program have been faster than legacy appeal processing times. Under the legacy process, decisions currently average three to seven years. Veterans who have a legacy appeal after Feb. 15 will be able to opt in to the process when they receive a Statement of the Case or a Supplemental Statement of the Case after the new law is effective Feb. 19.
Veterans who participate in RAMP can choose to have their VA decision reviewed in either the Supplemental Claim or Higher-Level Review lanes. In the Higher-Level Review lanes, a more experienced adjudicator will conduct a new look at the previous decision based on the evidence considered in the previous decision. Participants who select the Supplemental Claim option may submit new and relevant evidence, and VA will assist in developing new evidence under its duty to assist. VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days.
Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)
- Launched in November 2017, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) provides Veterans the opportunity to use the new review process in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The Act, otherwise known as the Appeals Modernization Act, was signed into law on Aug. 23, 2017.
- RAMP aims to provide eligible Veterans with resolution to their appealed claims as early as possible.
- RAMP will run through February 2019. At that point, The Appeals Modernization Act will be fully implemented.
- VA will process RAMP elections as long as necessary to resolve legacy appeals.
- The Appeals Modernization Act established a new review process for VA claims. This process is fast, transparent, and fair. It allows for improved benefits and services to you and your family.
- Through RAMP, you can receive a review of your claim decision much faster. You will have the option to use the “Higher-Level Review” or “Supplemental Claim” lane outlined in the new law.
- Select this option if you have additional evidence to present. The evidence should be new and relevant to your claim. We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days.
- We will help you gather evidence to support your claim.
- We will review any new and relevant evidence since your claim decision.
- If you still disagree with your decision, you can submit another supplemental claim with new evidence, or you can request review in the Higher-level Review Lane. An election for further review must be made within one year of the date of your decision.
- We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days.
- Select this option if you have no additional evidence, but believe there was an error in your initial decision. We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days.
- A higher-level review consists of an entirely new review of your claim, by a more senior claims adjudicator.
- The reviewer will only consider evidence that VA has at the time you opt-in. You will not be able to add new evidence during this process. Your representative will also not be able to add new evidence.
- We cannot assist you in developing additional evidence. If the reviewer discovers an error in the prior decision, your claim will return to initial decision makers to correct the error.
- You can request a one-time phone call with the reviewer to identify specific errors in your case. Your representative can also request this call. However, this call may cause some delay in processing.
- If you still disagree with your decision, and have additional evidence that you would like to submit, you can use the Supplemental Claim Lane after you receive a decision in the Higher-level Review Lane. An election for further review must be made within one year of the date of your decision. However, you will not have immediate access to the Higher-level Review after receiving a decision in this lane.
You are eligible if you have a pending disability compensation appeal in one of the following legacy appeal stages:
- Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
- Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals
- Certified to the Board, but not yet activated for a Board decision
- Remand from the board to VBA
- Early participation in the new review process
- Potentially faster decisions and earlier resolutions
- Multiple review options
- Supplemental Claim Lane
- Higher-level Review Lane
- Appeal to the Board after October 2018
- The same potential effective date for benefits, regardless of review option
- The option to ask for a quick look at a VA decision by a more senior claims reviewer
- A new requirement for clear and convincing evidence to change any findings favorable to Veterans in a VA decision
If you have questions about RAMP, talk with your VSO about whether RAMP is right for you.