In case you’re wondering, it takes just about six years for Jupiter to move from one side of the sun to the other. If you have the time, in six years you can sail around the world about six times or plant a tree and in six years it will grow about 10 feet. Or if you’re lucky, you can get a claims appeal processed at the VA in about six years.
All of that will change now. The VA claim appeals process is changing, and it should shave years off the time veterans have to wait for answers.
Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, gives veterans three new “lanes” for veterans’ appeals.
“At its core, VA’s mission is to provide veterans with the highest quality of service,” VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said. “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.”
The new appeals process comes out of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act that was signed into law this August. The new appeals methods are:
- The Board Lane, which instantly moves a pending appeal over to the board of Veterans’ Appeals and skips all the layers of bureaucracy in between.
- The Local Higher Level Review Lane moves a rejected claim to another adjudicator higher upon the VA’s food chain, and requires a second look to the documents.
- The New Evidence Lane lets veterans submit new evidence that is related to the disability claim.
Any time you file a claim and the VA rejects it, you have the right to appeal. You have up to one year from the date of the decision letter to file your notice of disagreement. There are about 470,000 pending appeals right now, one of which has been around for more than 25 years!
Right now, your participation in RAMP is voluntary, but veterans will get a review of VA’s initial decision of their claim quicker if they opt into RAMP than if they stick with the legacy appeals process. The one catch (as of right now) is that anyone who gets a decision through RAMP will have to wait to appeal the decision until the law has been fully implemented throughout the VA system, which won’t happen until February 2019.
If you opt into the RAMP system, you will not be able to return to the legacy appeals process. After February 2019, all requests for review of VA decisions will be processed under the new law. VA is encouraging all veterans with pending appeals to participate in the new process.
For more information on the VA’s appeals process, you can go here.