This past summer, after months of meetings, hearings, and deliberations, Congress passed a law referred to as the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. This law is designed to overhaul the VA benefits appeals process.
The new appeals system is scheduled to go into effect as early as February 2019. In the interim, the VA has created the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), which is designed to allow certain claimants to participate in aspects of the new appeals process immediately. Thousands of veterans have already received letters from the VA inviting them to participate in RAMP. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion and uncertainty among both claimants and representatives as to whether they should participate in this program.
VA is sending letters to many veterans whose claims are on appeal, encouraging those veterans to “opt in” to RAMP. If you receive one of these letters, we encourage you to contact your service officer, so he or she can help you determine whether opting in is in your best interest in your case. In most cases, staying in the current “Legacy” process, may be best.
Some advantages of RAMP include:
- Early participation in the new, more efficient review process for VA benefit decisions
- Potentially faster decisions and early resolution of disagreements
- Multiple review options (supplemental claim, higher level review, or appeal to the Board after February 2019)
- The same potential effective date for benefits regardless of the review option chosen
- The option to ask for a quick, fresh look at a VA decision by an experienced claims reviewer
- A new requirement that we must have clear and convincing evidence to change any findings favorable to you in a VA decision
This new law will bring many changes to the VA adjudication system. VA is still working on creating all the new rules and policies that will apply to claims and appeals, so there are still many unanswered questions about how the new system will work. Paralyzed Veterans of America will stay on top of these changes as they come, so we can continue to provide the best representation possible to our clients.
The preceding was adapted from an article authored by Paralyzed Veterans of America Senior National Service Officer, Michael Yaskowiak, located at the Cleveland, Ohio Service Office.