Former Veterans Affairs Attorney Robin M. Webb writes on her blog
By its own terms, the VAIMA does not go into effect until February 2019 and does not apply to current claims and appeals, but recently, VA announced that it was initiating this month the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), to provide some of the benefits of the VAIMA. Participation is voluntary at this time.
In this respect, as to whether to stay in the current appeals process, which is called “legacy,” or to opt-in and participate in RAMP, one needs to keep in mind that once you leave “legacy,” you cannot go back. Your appeal stays in RAMP.
I mention this as an important consideration because RAMP is being initiated without any implementing regulations at all. Let me explain. A statute, like the VAIMA, is a law. In turn, to implement a law, the appropriate agency drafts regulations, putting into place “rules” that govern how that agency enacts, applies, and enforces the statute, the law; in other words, the “rules” lay out what the law really means and its legal and practical effects. There is none of that with RAMP.
Veterans Affairs Press Release
Veterans Affairs announced that it will launch the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or “RAMP,” with the goal of providing Veterans with the earliest possible resolution of their disagreement with VA’s decision on their benefit claims.
RAMP will provide expanded opportunities for Veterans to enter the new, more efficient claims review process outlined in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 23.
“At its core, VA’s mission is to provide Veterans with the highest quality of service,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “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.”
VA began its 18-month implementation of the new process immediately after the bill became law.
By February 2019, all requests for review of VA decisions will be processed under the new, multi-lane process. VA’s legacy appeals process was slow and complex. The new law streamlines the process and includes safeguards ensuring claimants receive the earliest effective date possible for their claims.
Participation in RAMP is voluntary; however, Veterans can expect to receive a review of VA’s initial decision on their claim faster in RAMP than in the legacy appeals process. The initiative allows participants to have their decisions reviewed in the Higher-Level or Supplemental Claim review lanes outlined in the law.
The reviewer can overturn previous decisions based on a difference of opinion, or return it for correction. Participants who select the Supplemental Claim Lane may submit new evidence and may receive VA’s assistance in developing evidence in support of their claim.
Veterans who disagree with the decisions they receive in RAMP can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in the new process and have their appeal decided by the Board when the new law becomes effective in February 2019. Veterans who participate in RAMP will not be able to return to the legacy appeals process.
VA encourages eligible Veterans with pending appeals to participate in RAMP and the benefits of the new review process. VA will begin sending eligible Veterans an invitation to participate in early November and continue the program until February 2019.
VA will continue working with Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and other Veteran advocates to implement the new appeals process over the next several months as VA continues to make bold, positive change on behalf of Veterans, their families and survivors.