If you’re a veteran with a pending appeal, and you’ve received a RAMP letter, you may be confused by what it means. In August 2017, Congress passed a VA Appeals Reform Package called the VA Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. This appeals reform package will completely change the way VA appeals are handled. The most important thing to note is that the reform act is not currently in effect; this is where RAMP comes in.
The Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) is the pilot program for the reform act. The earliest the passed reform package can go into effect is around February 2019, 18 months after it was passed by Congress. Right now, the RAMP letters that veterans’ are receiving are related to the pilot program. Basically, the VA must utilize the pilot program to show Congress that the new system is working before the actual reform act goes into effect.
If you receive a RAMP letter, it is important to know that this pilot program is optional. You do not have to participate in the pilot program and you do not have to opt out of the program to avoid getting involved. The RAMP program is only for claims that are currently on appeal, meaning a decision has previously been made on the claim, whether it was a denial or a grant you were not satisfied with. This program is not for new claims, but only claims on appeal.
The only way you will be entered into the RAMP program is if you sign the RAMP letter opting into the program and choosing a “lane”. There are three lanes in the new reform act but only two are open for RAMP. The two open lanes are 1) Supplemental Claim Lane and 2) Higher Review Lane. If you choose to opt-in to the RAMP program, you get to choose which lane to have your appeal reviewed under.
Supplement Claim Lane:
This lane is where a veteran requests to have their appeal reviewed based on additional evidence that is new and relevant. If you have additional evidence that is important to your appeal which you have not yet submitted or that has not been previously reviewed by the VA, you could choose this option.
Higher-Level Review Lane:
This lane is where a veteran requests a de novo (fresh/new) review based on the evidence already submitted to the VA at the time the veteran chooses to opt-in to the program. You cannot add new evidence once you choose this lane. This lane could be for situations where all of the veteran’s evidence has been submitted and the veteran is just waiting for a decision on their appeal.
The third lane of the appeals reform package has to do with appeals at the BVA. This lane will not open until at least February 2019. This is a very brief overview giving a general description to provide a little basic information about RAMP. The overall take away is that there is a lot of question and ambiguity about the program so please feel free to reach out to our office if you have additional questions.