You may have heard about VA's appeal modernization program.
The appeal modernization program is meant to fix the dismal delays veterans face when appealing the VA's decision on a disability claim. This new program was mandated by Public Law 115-55, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.
Currently the only way you can appeal the VA's decision on your disability claim is by going to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, a process that takes an average of seven years. The new law is meant to fix that.
What Is The VA Appeal Modernization Program?
The new law created three different ways for you to appeal the VA's decision on your disability claim.
- A Supplemental Claim Lane - This is done by submitting new evidence to the same office that originally denied your claim, they will then reexamine everything and make a new decision
- A Higher Level Review - If you already gave the VA all the evidence you have, but believe they made a mistake or missed something you can request a higher level review which may, or may not, be at the same office that originally denied your claim
- An Appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals - This is basically the same option as you currently have except that you can now choose between three options:
- A Direct Review - if you have no additional evidence to submit and don't want a hearing. You can request the Board to review the decision made by the original office
- Additional Evidence Submission - If you don't want a hearing but have additional evidence to submit
- The Choice of a Hearing - if you want your day in court to submit evidence and testify to the judge
When Does This New Appeal Process Start?
The law gave VA until the latter of January 25, 2019, or 30 days after the VA Secretary tells Congress they are ready to implement the program, to get the new program up-and-running.
Unfortunately, that could mean anything.
However, the VA is currently beginning a trial rollout of the new program. They are also saying that all appeals will be handled by the new system by February of 2019.
Many veterans have reported getting letters from the VA that ask them to participate in the trial version of the RAMP program.
The RAMP Program?
Yes, we all know government agencies love their acronyms, RAMP stands for Rapid Appeals Modernization Program.
RAMP was previously only available to a small select group of veterans, however on April 2 the VA opened it up to all veterans with pending appeals.
Basically VA is letting all veterans who have a claim awaiting appeal to either stay in the queue for the Board of Veterans Appeals or switch over to the new system.
Here is a copy of the letter the VA is sending to selected veterans. The VA is saying if you switch, you will get a faster decision.
Should You Switch?
Well, that is up to you, and your legal representative if you have one. VSOs and veteran's attorneys nationwide are beginning to get training on the new system so it is best to talk to your legal rep. (if you have one) before making any decision.
The VA is saying that under the RAMP program a decision on an appeal will be made in 30 - 120 days. Sounds too good to be true, we'll just have to wait and see.
In some cases you'll get a quicker decision, but it may be a rubber-stamp of a previous denial. A faster denial doesn't do you a lot of good. Also, you must be careful to select the proper option, otherwise you may be denied and unable to submit any additional evidence without a further, and longer, appeal.
It pays to have your ducks in a row before you submit ANYTHING to the VA.
We will be following this closely, and let you know when there are any developments.