A Faster Way to Get Your VA Disability Claim Appeal Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2018

As part of the new Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, certain veterans caught up in the VA disability claim appeals process with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be eligible to try out two new "review lanes" designed to help resolve the backlog of appeals.A Faster Way to Get Your VA Disability Claim Appeal Reviewed

Through the new law’s special Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), the oldest appeals currently in the system will be the first to be invited to participate – choosing either the Higher-Level Review Lane or Supplemental Claim Lane. The RAMP provision will last until February 2019 when it will be absorbed into the full Modernization law.

Are You Eligible to Get Your VA Disability Claim Appeal Reviewed Quickly?

The legacy appeals process – adopted and set into law after World War I – previously split jurisdiction over appeals in compensation claims between the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Board, adding more complexity to the appeal process. The new law, or Appeals Modernization Act, not only lays the framework to modernize the current appeals process but also authorizes the VA to create RAMP.

A veteran will be eligible for RAMP if he or she currently has a disability compensation appeal pending in one of the following legacy appeal stages:

  • Certified to the Board but not yet activated for a Board decision
  • Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals
  • Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
  • Remand from the Board to VBA

Those who have been waiting for resolution the longest in each appeal stage will receive a letter giving them the opportunity to participate in RAMP first. The VA plans to then phase in more veterans into the program, eventually reaching out to 350,000 veterans with pending appeals.

If you decide to participate in RAMP, you simply return the form found in the notice, indicating which of the two new appeal lanes you would like to use. If you do nothing, you will remain in the legacy process. It’s important to note that once you join RAMP, you will not have the option to go back to the legacy appeals process.

However, the VA states that you can expect faster resolution by participating in RAMP than if you remain in the legacy appeals process.

To choose the best appeals lane for you, consider the specifics of each option:

Higher-Level Review Lane

  • You should choose 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. A higher-level review consists of an entirely new review of your claim by a senior claims adjudicator who will only consider evidence that was in VA’s possession at the time you opt-in. The VA’s goal is to complete these higher-level reviews in an average of 125 days.
  • You or your representative can request an optional one-time telephonic, informal conference with the Higher-Level Reviewer to identify specific errors in the case. Please note, requesting an informal conference may cause some delay in the processing of your higher-level review.
  • If the Higher-Level Reviewer discovers an error in the prior decision, your claim will return to initial decision-makers for additional processing to correct the error.
  • If necessary, you can use make a claim through the Supplemental Claim Lane – after receiving 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.

Supplemental Claim Lane

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

After February 2019, RAMP will become a full part of the Modernization Law, adding in a third review option that allows a veteran to appeal directly to the VA Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

This third option offers three paths for working with the Board:

  • Direct review: Choose this option if you do not have additional evidence to submit and you do not want a hearing.
  • Evidence submission: Choose this option if you don't want a hearing, but you do have additional evidence to submit.
  • Hearing: Choose this option if you want to testify before a Veterans Law Judge, and submit additional evidence.

For more information on the VA’s plans for emptying out the backlog of disability claims with the RAMP provision, or general information on the Modernization Law, visit the VA information pages.

Written by Megan Hammons

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