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    When a Veteran starts considering whether or not to file a VA Disability Claim, there are a lot of questions that he or she tends to ask. Over the last 10 years, the following are the 14 most common basic questions I am asked about ...
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  • Can a 100 percent Disabled Veteran Work and Earn an Income?

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    You’ve just been rated 100% disabled by the Veterans Affairs. After the excitement of finally having the rating you deserve wears off, you start asking questions. One of the first questions that you might ask is this: It’s a legitimate question – rare is the Veteran that finds themselves sitting on the couch eating bon-bons … Continue reading

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Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP)

Question

What is RAMP?

  • Launched in November 2017, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) provides Veterans the opportunity to use the new review process in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. The Act, otherwise known as the Appeals Modernization Act, was signed into law on Aug. 23, 2017.
  • RAMP aims to provide eligible Veterans with resolution to their appealed claims as early as possible. 
  • RAMP will run through February 2019. At that point, The Appeals Modernization Act will be fully implemented.
  • VA will process RAMP elections as long as necessary to resolve legacy appeals.
How does RAMP work with VA’s Appeals Modernization Plan?
  • The Appeals Modernization Act established a new review process for VA claims. This process is fast, transparent, and fair. It allows for improved benefits and services to you and your family. 
  • Through RAMP, you can receive a review of your claim decision much faster. You will have the option to use the “Higher-Level Review” or “Supplemental Claim” lane outlined in the new law. 
Which Review Lane is Right for You?
Supplemental Claim Lane
  • Select this option if you have additional evidence to present. The evidence should be new and relevant to your claim. We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days. 
  • We will help you gather evidence to support your claim.
  • We will review any new and relevant evidence since your claim decision. 
  • If you still disagree with your decision, you can submit another supplemental claim with new evidence, or you can request review in the Higher-level Review Lane. An election for further review must be made within one year of the date of your decision. 
  • We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days.
Higher-Level Review Lane
  • Select this option if you have no additional evidence, but believe there was an error in your initial decision. We aim to complete these claims in an average of 125 days.
  • A higher-level review consists of an entirely new review of your claim, by a more senior claims adjudicator. 
  • The reviewer will only consider evidence that VA has at the time you opt-in. You will not be able to add new evidence during this process. Your representative will also not be able to add new evidence. 
  • We cannot assist you in developing additional evidence. If the reviewer discovers an error in the prior decision, your claim will return to initial decision makers to correct the error. 
  • You can request a one-time phone call with the reviewer to identify specific errors in your case. Your representative can also request this call. However, this call may cause some delay in processing. 
  • If you still disagree with your decision, and have additional evidence that you would like to submit, you can use the Supplemental Claim Lane after you receive a decision in the Higher-level Review Lane. An election for further review must be made within one year of the date of your decision. However, you will not have immediate access to the Higher-level Review after receiving a decision in this lane. 
Who is eligible for RAMP?
As of April 2018, any Veteran with a pending disability compensation appeal in the stages listed below can opt into RAMP. Complete the opt-in form online on the Appeals Modernization webpage, or turn in a paper form. 

You are eligible if you have a pending disability compensation appeal in one of the following legacy appeal stages: 

  • Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
  • 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
Advantages of RAMP
  • Early participation in the new review process
  • Potentially faster decisions and earlier resolutions
  • Multiple review options
    • Supplemental Claim Lane
    • Higher-level Review Lane
    • Appeal to the Board after October 2018
  • The same potential effective date for benefits, regardless of review option
  • The option to ask for a quick look at a VA decision by a more senior claims reviewer
  • A new requirement for clear and convincing evidence to change any findings favorable to Veterans in a VA decision

If you have questions about RAMP, talk with your VSO about whether RAMP is right for you.

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Good Evening,

I will be submitting a NOD in the next couple of months. I will be submitting additional evidence with the NOD form (medical documents and rebuttal from my doctor who provided my NEXUS letter). I believe the new process will be mandator later this month so should I go to the Supplemental Claim Lane or the Higher Level Review lane?

Edited by Galen Rogers

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NOVA attorneys are now beginning to report back on our website about their experiences of opting into the HLR lane. They (me included) have always been in the habit of having an informal "discussion" on the phone with the DRO who is doing your Vet's review. If we have a formal hearing on it, I (most of us) also usually submit a "clarifying NOD Addendum" that just  repeats the original NOD.

Nothing is recorded or even admitted to on informal calls and it's strictly off the record officially. We bargain. It's a verbal handshake and both parties tend to honor it. With HLR, the DROs are now beginning the "informal" call by saying they will only accept discussion about errors of evaluation of evidence or violations of regulation/statute. No more back and forth discussion about being willing to withdraw claims for x, y and z and VA granting IU. No new evidence is allowed to be submitted. Remember- RAMP HLR is like a bullet. You cannot call it back once you pull the trigger. VA is not allowed to bargain on paper. Now, it appears, VA has a RAMP mandate to dictate the terms of the HLR. Gone is the bargaining avenue. This can only mean sixty more years of VA winter. 

Thus, most attorneys are not very impressed with how RAMP is shaping up. I avoided taking the plunge. I do have two CUE monsters which are absolutely perfect candidates for the February 19th, 2019 Inaugural launching of the new RAMP Rocket Docket to the BVA for a real HLR before a real law dog Veterans Law Judge for a real decision. Anytime someone comes up and says they have a better mousetrap, it's best to sit back and see first. There'll be plenty of time for filing. 

I'd go the supplemental lane-- always. It's at least the semblance of fair.

Edited by asknod

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There are changes to the regulations on effective dates, that Vets should be aware of.  They are available here:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/38/5110

In particular, this regulation specifies "supplemental claim lane", and, remarkably absent is "HLR", for reasons which are unclear.  

Also, gone is "new and MATERIAL evidence" which is replaced by new and RELEVANT evidence.  In this, its unclear if 38 CFR 3.156 b and 38 cfr 3.156 c still applies.  

SUPER IMPORTANT:  It appears there is a limit to retro as follows:

 

Quote

 

(i)

Whenever any disallowed claim is readjudicated and thereafter allowed on the basis of new and relevant evidence resulting from the correction of the military records of the proper servicedepartment under section 1552 of title 10, or the change, correction, or modification of a discharge or dismissal under section 1553 of title 10, or from other corrective action by competent authority, the effective date of commencement of the benefits so awarded shall be the date on which an application was filed for correction of the military record or for the change, modification, or correction of a discharge or dismissal, as the case may be, or the date such disallowed claim was filed, whichever date is the later, but in no event shall such award of benefits be retroactive for more than one year from the date of readjudication of such disallowed claim. This subsection shall not apply to any application or claim for Government life insurance benefits.

 

 

 

The statment, above would appear to limit the retro for New and material (now called new and relevant) evidence is limited to just 0ne year, at least that is how I read it, above.  This is HUGE.  For that reason, if the Veteran submits new evidence and wants to reopen, I COULD NOT RECOMMEND RAMP UNLESS the pontential retro was less than a year.  More often than not, its over a year.  However, under the "old" 38 cfr 3.156 b or c, the retro had no "one year limit", so its unclear which regulation would apply..the old new and material evidence, or this new ramp relevant evidence.  In theory, the regulation most favorable to the Veteran should apply BUT I would like to see the outcome of Kizor vs Wilikie to be sure.  

     As some know, the US Supreme Court has taken up a Veterans case, Mr. Kizor, and the issue boils down to the Auer (aka Cheveron deference) vs the Benefit of the doubt.  Should the VEteran prevail in overturning the Auer defense, giving some teeth to the "benefit of the doubt" doctrine, I can see this being a major deal for Vets.  If the supreme court fails to overturn Auer, then stuff should remain pretty much as it is, where the VA is able to interpret regulations in any matter they choose, whether or not it favors the VEteran.  Of course, Im sure most veterans will be "suprised" to find VA does not really give the VEteran the benefit of the doubt currently, nor is there any "real" such thing as a "claimant friendly non adversarial process".  

Edited by broncovet

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So when I look at the current NOD form (VA FORM 21-0958, SEP 2018) it does not appear to be updated for the new RAMP process. It gives you two options or routes for your NOD (DRO Review Process & Traditional Appellate Review Process). I assume (yuk) that if we submit on line we are able to choose "Supplemental Lane" versus "Higher Level lane". So I presume when you submit your NOD via certified mail you have to add a cover letter to detail you wish to go "supplemental lane". Is that a fair presumption? 

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The VA has said that RAMP will be "fully implemented" by Feb. 19.  There are some differnces of opinion as to what VA means by "fully implemented", but those questions should be answered somewhat soon.  I have noticed there are regulatory changes to accomodate RAMP, I have published at least some of them, above.  

If you are submitting new evidence that could result in an effective date of MORE than 1 year back, then your best bet may not be to opt into RAMP SCL for reasons I outlined above. The way I interpret the new regulations is that you can not get an effective date MORE than a year back by submitting new, relevant evidence in the SCL.  

Thus, if you anticipate submitting new evidence that could result in retro more than a year back, it may be in your best interst NOT to opt into RAMP.    Read the regulation I posted above, counsut with professionals, then decide for yourself.  

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