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Program offers more efficient review process for veterans

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Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 8:14 PM

In November, Veterans Affairs launched Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, with the goal of providing eligible veterans with the earliest possible resolution of their disability compensation claim.

RAMP is voluntary and will provide eligible veterans the opportunity to enter the new, more efficient review process outlined in the historic Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act), which the president signed into law on Aug. 23.

Under RAMP, veterans may expect to receive a review of the decision about their claim much faster than if they remain in the legacy appeals process. The program will allow participants the option to have their decisions reviewed in the Higher-Level Review or Supplemental Claim Lane outlined in the new law.

RAMP will run through the implementation period for the Appeals Modernization Act. Further, the VA will continue to process RAMP elections as long as necessary to continue to accelerate resolution of legacy appeals.

The VA’s legacy appeal process, which was set in law, split jurisdiction over appeals in compensation claims between the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, adding more complexity to the appeal process.

The Appeals Modernization Act establishes a new review process for VA claims that is timely, transparent and fair, and thus allows the VA to improve the delivery of benefits and services to veterans and their families.

RAMP gives veterans the opportunity for early participation in the new Supplemental Claim and Higher-Level Review lanes.

Which review lane is right for you?Supplemental Claim Lane. Select this option if you have additional evidence that is new and relevant to support granting your benefit claim. The VA’s goal is to complete these supplemental claims in an average of 125 days. The VA will assist you in gathering new and relevant evidence to support your claim. VA’s review will include any new and relevant evidence submitted since they last decided your claim. If necessary, you can continue to submit supplemental claims with new and relevant evidence or use the Higher-Level Review Lane after you receive a decision in the Supplemental Claim Lane by making an election for further review within one year of the date on your decision notice.

Higher-Level Review Lane. Select this option if you have no additional evidence to submit in support of your claim but you believe that there was an error in the initial decision. VA’s goal is to complete these higher-level reviews in an average of 125 days.A higher-level review consists of an entirely new review of your claim by a senior claims adjudicator. Factual findings that are favorable to you cannot be changed unless there is evidence to the contrary that is clear and convincing. The Higher-Level Reviewer will only consider evidence that was in VA’s possession at the time you opt-in. You and/or your representative will not be able to add new evidence during this process.

VA cannot assist you in developing additional evidence. However, if the Higher-Level Reviewer discovers an error in the VA’s duty to assist in the previous decision, your claim will return to initial decision-makers for additional processing to correct the error.

You or your representative can request an optional one-time informal conference by phone with the Higher-Level Reviewer to identify specific errors in the case. Requesting an informal conference may cause some delay in the processing of your higher-level review.

If necessary, you can use the Supplemental Claim Lane after you receive a decision in the Higher-Level Review Lane by making an election for further review within one year of the date on your decision notice. However, you will not have immediate access to the Higher-Level Review after receiving a decision in the Higher-Level Review Lane.

Who is eligible for RAMP?Veterans who have a disability compensation appeal pending in one of the following legacy appeal stages:

Notice of Disagreement. Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals.Certified to the Board but not yet activated for a Board decision.Remand from the Board to VBA.Veterans who have been waiting the longest in each of the above appeal stages for a resolution of their appeal will receive a letter giving them the opportunity to participate in RAMP first. The VA will phase more veterans into RAMP, eventually inviting almost 350,000 to participate.

Advantages of RAMPEarly 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).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 the VA must have clear and convincing evidence to change any findings favorable to veterans in a VA decision. Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.

For more information

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assis­tance to veterans and their families. For more information, visit the county website at www.co.laplata.co.us and type “veterans services” in the search window. The Veterans Service Office and the Durango VA Clinic are located at 1970 East Third Ave. The office phone number is 759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except holidays. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule an appoint­ment, call 382-6150. For clinic appointments, call 247-2214.
Help for vetsThe Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans, family and friends. Call (800) 273-8255 and press 1. You also can text professional responders at 838255 or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.
Health care van serviceDisabled American Veterans is running a VA health care van from Durango to Albuquerque on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from Farmington to Albuquerque on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you want to use the DAV transportation network, contact DAV coordinators at:
Durango area – 442-0149Cortez area – 676-1116Farmington/Aztec – (505) 793-1782

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