By now many veterans have received a mailing that there is an effort to decrease the waiting time in your VA appeal. The program is a pilot program where veterans can “opt in” to the new RAMP program, while others may chose to stay in the older so called “legacy” program. This article is intended to be informative, but by no means authoritative as the program is new, and we are picking up a lot of information along the way. While overall we don’t really recommend the program, there could be some advantages such that favorable findings are binding in future adjudications. Also the ability to return to the agency within one year of denial is preserved with “new and relevant” evidence while the original effective date is kept. The earliest effective date is February 2019. If a veteran is invited to participate they must withdraw all appeals/hearing requests to participate, and it won’t be clear usually which appeals are eligible since many veterans have multiple appeal issues. The other disadvantage is that once a veteran opts in they can’t revert back to the prior legacy system.
If a veteran wishes to reject the opt in they need not do anything otherwise it appears one can opt in even after 60 days following the election letter. Upon receiving a decision from the RAMP system a veteran cannot appeal to the Board until the pilot program is over in February 2019. As a part of the opt in a veteran can go for higher level review (HLR) where no new evidence will be accepted after the opt form is submitted. The veteran can request an informal conference that will be telephonic. If the veteran is unsatisfied with the HLR then they can either file a supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence or file an appeal to BVA. On the supplemental claim if a veteran wants to appeal that then they can file a HLR, file another supplemental claim with new and relevant evidence, or file appeal with BVA.
The bottom line on this program is that we are not recommending participation at this point in time. This is primarily because we aren’t sure what the pros and cons of this unproven system are, and even though it promises faster decisions these decisions won’t necessarily be more favorable to the veteran. Furthermore, you cannot return to the legacy system once opting in and can’t appeal to the Board until at least 2019.