The law firm of Gordon & Doner P.A. strongly recommends AGAINST opting in to this program. If you have any questions or would like further clarification, after reading the article below, please feel to contact us. We are here to help those who fought for us.
The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) was launched in November 2017 with the intent of providing 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 August 23rd, 2017.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), RAMP aims to provide eligible Veterans with resolution to their appealed claims as early as possible. The Appeals Modernization Act will be fully implemented by February 2019. The VA will process RAMP elections as long as necessary to resolve legacy appeals.
What you need to know is that this program is a “pilot program”, which means they have no idea if it will work or not. Please note the keywords used by the VA in describing it: “aims to provide”, “as early as possible”, “as long as necessary”, and it will not be fully operational until February 2019. None of these statements are definitive and the program is not completely in place yet, so it is in essence, just a test.
So, what is the VA testing? They are going to be testing a few very specific things, but RAMP is NOT going to be testing ways to make appeals better or faster or ways to avoid having to file an appeal at all.
If you decide to opt in and participate in RAMP, here is what you can expect:
1.) You will NOT receive a Board of Veterans Appeal (BVA) decision faster and you will NOT receive one prior to February 2019.
2.) You will NOT be provided with a decision from a Decision Review Officer (DRO), but you may (that’s a big maybe) receive a “Higher Level Review”.
3.) You absolve the VA of their Duty to Assist. If you are not aware, the VA has a duty to assist claimants in obtaining evidence when the VA receives a complete or substantially complete application for veterans benefits.
4.) You waive some of your rights to certain kinds of claims.
RAMP makes sweeping procedural and structural changes to the VA Appeals process. The VA believes these changes will fix the appeals process and processing timelines. The two key changes to the current system are:
1.) Once a veteran or their survivor receives either a denial of the claim or a low rating decision, they will no longer file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). Instead, they will have 3 appeal options: to file a Supplemental Claim, request a Higher Level Review, or apply for a BVA Hearing. How these procedural steps will work is anybody’s guess.
2.) If a veteran or their survivor decides to pursue their appeal by applying for a BVA Hearing, they will have to determine whether they want to either: add new evidence to the appeal prior to the hearing, add new evidence after the appeal up to the hearing, or have a BVA Hearing at all.
It all sounds so clear and logical … just like the “New Math” being taught in schools.
If you are a veteran or the survivor of a veteran, your best course of action is to seek legal counsel. The confusing, convoluted, and now changing landscape of veterans disability benefits is even more challenging and should not be taken lightly.