RAMPing up the appeals process

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Last August, DAV heralded the signing of appeals modernization legislation into law.

This long-awaited legislative reform addresses the long delays veterans often face within the current VA disability appeals system, averaging three to five years—sometimes longer—to complete. Once fully implemented, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 will overhaul the appeals process by creating three paths for veterans to appeal an unfavorable decision: requesting a higher-level VA adjudicator to quickly review their case, filing a supplemental claim with new evidence or taking their appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Each of these options will preserve the effective date of the claim, and after each new decision is provided, the veteran can continue to appeal using a different option.

While the legislation will not be fully effective until 2019, last November the VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to provide some of the benefits of the new law’s streamlined process to veterans who already have appeals pending. RAMP participants can have their decisions reconsidered using one of two new options: seeking higher-level review or filing a supplemental claim.

“At its core, VA’s mission is to provide veterans with the highest quality of service,” said VA secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin in a statement on the program. “The new process under the RAMP initiative reflects major steps in not only VA’s effort of continuous improvement, but also in providing greater choice for veterans and their families.”

Opting into RAMP is entirely voluntary, but it offers the following benefits:

  • Early participation in a new streamlined appeals process
  • Faster decisions—the VA’s goal is to average 125 days in RAMP
  • Protection of the earliest effective date for benefits while pursuing any or all of the three review lanes

The VA is phasing in RAMP by inviting veterans with the oldest appeals to opt in first. If veterans have not received a letter in the mail regarding RAMP, the VA is still processing the appeal through the current system and will notify them if and when they become eligible for the new program.

“I was proud to represent DAV on a stakeholder work group that developed the framework,” said National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “DAV was instrumental in developing and passing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, and we believe RAMP can provide eligible veterans many of the legislation’s benefits prior to the law’s full implementation next year.”

If you received notice from the VA about enrolling in RAMP or would like to know more about this program, please contact your nearest national service office to discuss whether opting in is the right move for your appeal: www.dav.org/veterans/find-your-local-office.