The Veterans Administration has created an opportunity for veterans with appeals pending before the Regional Office to participate in the new Appeals Process. This invitation is called Rapid Appeals Modernization Program or “RAMP”. It allows invited veterans to choose to have their appeals re-reviewed by a specific Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office either as a supplemental claim or by a higher-level review with a senior claims adjudicator. Currently, those veterans with the oldest appeals are being invited into the program. Over the next year, we expect all veterans with an appeal pending at the Regional Office to be invited to participate in the program.
IT’S NEW, BUT IS IT IMPROVED?
As with anything brand new, there is significant uncertainty as to the efficacy of the program. More concerning, there is no direction as to what happens at the Board if the review results in another denial.
We continue to be open minded as theoretically, if this “redo” results in a grant of the appeal, it could speed up the grant. The issue is that if the appeal results in yet another denial, review by the Board cannot begin until sometime after February 2019. Realistically, review by the Board may be much later than that depending on when the regulations are finalized and how the Board implements their response to the RAMP procedure. Most concerning, Veterans who opt into the RAMP program will also lose their place in line at the Board based on the traditional process. This means that for a veteran who has already waited a significant time for a Board hearing, that time is simply lost – at least according to the current regulations.
Until there is better information about what the program will entail, specifically the process at the Board for further appeal of RAMP denials, we are not yet recommending our current clients opt into the RAMP program and are advising them to remain in the legacy appeal process. However, we are hopeful that future appeals will be handled more efficiently and timely once the VA fully implements this new appeals process.