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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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    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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Richard1954

Ramp was a waste of time

Question

Ok... so I have been confused by what is going on with my claims,  I opted in to ramp Jul 2018 . The claims were already in an appeals status  and I had already requested de- novo reviews. So they took a claim  that did not even exist in one case (Heart)  and requested  a C&P exam. In another case they decided to ignore the issue and what had been written when I requested an earlier effective date for my TBI rating and then denied the EED.  In another case I asked for a separate rating for my sleep apnea,  ( separate and apart from my asthma/copd) and I requested a step increase in my SMC  from L 1/2 to M, because any rating 50% or more entitles the veteran to addition SMC. When the illegally combine a sleep disorder with Lung disease and then deny the SMC I think this is wrong, in fact the BVA has awarded a few separate ratings for Lung Disease and Sleep Apnea. I understand the special rules regarding Lung disease and that they do not award separate ratings for these conditions. My legal argument is that the VA should not be denying a separate rating for sleep apnea because sleep apnea is a sleep disorder not a lung disease.... Anyway I already knew  that this issues will have to be decided at the BVA or higher.. In fact,  I want this to go to the Court of Appeals, and if denied I will take it outside the system to a federal court. For too long the VA has improperly rated sleep apnea as a lung disease and denied me and possibly thousand of other veterans separate ratings when we have a lung disease. In my case I have Asthma rated 60%, COPD 100% and Sleep Apnea 50%. But because of the rules I get screwed and all three diseases are rated as one, first its not right because it fails to take into consideration how serious and different the 3 separate diseases are, and while Asthma and COPD do overlap, sleep apnea does not . Anyway the va then took my knee issue, and hearing issues and requested new C/P exams. I have already had 4 hearing exams ( one just last September) , and two c&p for me knee issues.. Why they need new C&P exams is beyond me and a waste of time and money.  In a different post I indicated they had my claims at pending a decision, and then they were back at seeking information ..well now I know why... So I now have to appeal these two denials to the BVA, and it has to be done on a special 21-4138 that they supplied and they give  6 different options and I have to select 1 option for all appeals.  So In my case Ramp was a waste of time because all they did was deny the claims again  and I have to send them to the BVA anyways.  ( Maybe they saved me a little time, under de-novo they would have denied them under the old system too) Anyway they are off to the BVA and I have new C&P exams sched for the 22  of Jan for my knee, and then at a different office in a different town on the same day a hearing test. I really think ramp is a crappy system. Also when they wrote the denials, the letter actual reads as if they left some lines out of the decision, over all very confusing. I understood the old system and should have just waited for a decision under that system...  Sorry for the long story..... 

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Ramp is not a waste of time.  You posted:

Quote

Ramp was a waste of time because all they did was deny the claims again  and I have to send them to the BVA anyways. 

It isnt a waste of time BECAUSE:

1.  You dont have to wait a year, on average for a SOC prior to going to the BVA with RAMP.  

2.  You dont have to wait 2 more years for the VARO to "certify" your claim to the BVA with ramp.  

     By eliminating that 3 year delay getting to the BVA, you took 3 years off your timeline.  

ALSO, VA has promised that Ramp claimants at the BVA will be placed "before" legacy BVA appeals.  

     In legacy appeals, a DRO is the "approximate" equivilant to the RAMP "Higher level review or Supplemental claim lane".  All 3 of these are done prior to getting to the BVA.  You got a quick decision (since July is very very quick for VA), and now its on to the BVA, where RAMP will make that a lot less than 5 years also.  The BVA chairman says that legacy appeals take about 5 years to the BVA; read it for yourself:

https://www.bva.va.gov/Chairman_Annual_Rpts.asp

Let us know when you get to the BVA, I bet you get there, through RAMP, much before the year 2024 that you would likely get thru legacy appeals.  Ramp isnt perfect, but you just showed it was much faster than legacy appeals already.  I have never gotten a DRO decision in the 5 or 6 months you did.  Mine always took a year or more.  

 

Edited by broncovet

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And, depending on which RAMP path you chose, you are not allowed to submit any new evidence to the BVA that might mitigate in your favor once you start down that road.

The problem with RAMP is simple. You trade in due process rights-in this case, the duty to assist you in developing your claim(s)- for a speedier decision and an expedited decision at the BVA. Since the new system BVA RAMP part doesn't kick in until February 2019 (we hope), you could never get it expedited in the truest sense. If you are not permitted to submit a new nexus/IMO at the BVA, what, pray tell, would be the purpose of appealing? The sole purpose of the BVA is to give you another bite of the claims apple. This is the stage where more claims denials are overturned-many due to introduction of new evidence.

RAMP is a feel good panacea to give Vets the illusion of a faster decision. Unfortunately, it strips you of protections accorded you under the old legacy situation. All this will end up doing is overburdening the CAVC with a huge backlog. USB Allison Hickey promised us a streamlined system in 2013 with the advent of VBMS and electronic claims processing. That led to Fully Developed Claims (FDC) where you do all the work in collecting the evidence. With RAMP, in essence they effectively forbid your doing even that. 

So... FDC gets you a 125-day decision with a 75% error rate. Add in RAMP and you get a denied appeal with no added evidence permitted within a month after you get the appeal(s) certified.  If it were just  a pure law argument like CUE where you are not permitted to supplement the record with anything new, it (RAMP) would be advantageous. This poker game is already stacked against us. RAMP is just one more tool to be used against us.

One thing I see in VA law is when I get in front of a VLJ literally face-to- face rather than video conferencing, I win. Granted, I submit a new IMO, too. You want that interpersonal relationship. You need to get the Judge to view you as a Veteran and not a number. It's one thing to see an ASPCA commercial showing a shivering dog. It's another thing entirely  (and far more poignant) when you come across a shivering dog in the flesh. A VLJ's compassion level goes up immensely face-to-face and even more so if your appeal is justified.

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The Veteran "giving up" the SOC seems like a good play for the Vet.  The only time I have seen an SOC matter is when VA neglected to send it, giving the Veteran leverage in an appeal, possibly getting a remand allowing the Vet to submit new evidence.  

It may not matter, anyway, next month when "we all" go into RAMP, if VA completes this as promised.  

This seems like a perfect time to opt into RAMP, to me, since EVERYONE goes into RAMP next month, so it gives you a chance to get ahead of "rush hour" when millions of Vets go into ramp at the same time.  If ramp bva appeals are processed "in the order received", then it makes perfect sense to opt into ramp now, before the big rush beginning in Feb.  

Thus, we are all giving up the SOC in the future, like it or not.  I see the SOC as an incredible waste of time, exceeded only by the 2year delay Vets face while VARO certifies the claim to the board.  

Time will tell, but RAMP seems to be the best idea since cell phones.  

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Whoa there. Back the boat back up to the dock, Gilligan.  RAMP is optional. RAMP in no way supplants the legacy appeals system. Here was the text of the bill. You can always file your appeal as a VA 9, be certified into the legacy system and obtain a hearing and submit a new IMO if you decline to use the RAMP system. Where did you get the idea "we all go into RAMP" next month? 

The bill permits a veteran to appeal within one year by: (1) requesting a review of the agency of original jurisdiction's (AOJ) decision by a higher-level adjudicator within AOJ using the same evidentiary record [basically a DRO review]; (2) filing a supplemental claim with a regional office that includes the opportunity to submit additional evidence and have a hearing [ a DRO Hearing with N&M E submitted]; or (3) appealing directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals with the opportunity to select an expedited review to submit new evidence but without a hearing, or to select a review with the option to submit new evidence and request a hearing.

A veteran may: (1) maintain the original effective date of a claim if he or she submits new and relevant evidence within one year of the most recent decision, and (2) retain the services of attorneys and accredited agents who charge a fee when the AOJ provides notice of the original decision.

The VA's statutory duty to assist a veteran terminates after the original decision.

The bill: (1) requires the VA to issue decision notification letters, (2) permits certain veterans who initiated an appeal prior to the bill's effective date to opt-in to the modernized appeals system, (3) authorizes the VA to conduct a pilot program to test such system, and (4) requires the VA, prior to full implementation, to certify to Congress that it has sufficient resources and personnel to carry out the legacy and modernized appealssystems.

RAMP really operates more at the local level than the BVA. If you choose the HLR lane, no new evidence may be submitted and you in essence just get a DRO review. At that point, if you lose, they issue the SOC and you automatically proceed to the BVA RAMP decision. No new evidence or a hearing may be requested and you will get a swift decision. You may not like it but that's RAMP. Once you opt in, that's all she wrote. 

If you choose the supplemental claims lane, you can submit new evidence and ask for a DRO review as you could before. If you are denied, you go up to the BVA and again, get a decision with no hearing or submittal of new evidence. Either way, you get the Shanghai Express. 

The problem I illustrate is that once you are denied, you cannot win without submitting N&M Evidence-usually an IMO. A denial means you forgot one of the three Caluza elements. You rarely win by rehashing the old evidence and trying to convince the DRO to grant. Remember. They use the M 21. Absent any new metrics to input, the M 21 computer will merely regurgitate a brand new SOC explaining to you what part of "No" you might not have understood in the prior original denial. With RAMP, the exact same process happens at the BVA.  I've heard of insanity being explained as doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. RAMP is no different. Attorneys tell me they are experiencing a 90% denial rate and we haven't even opened shop up at the BVA yet.

Each path chosen leads to a specific end. Once you opt in, you have to continue. Imagine what would happen if a new CAVC or Fed. Circus decision came out in the interim and the BVA didn't consider it? You need flexibility in you legal posture. I've inserted IMOs with less than 90 days to be considered at the BVA-and won. If I'd RAMPed, I would have lost. Haste makes waste.

Edited by asknod

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According to the VA website, :

https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/appeals-ramp.asp

It states:

Quote
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.

My "interpretation" is "fully implemented in Feb. 2019" means it will no longer be optional.  This is consistent with VA's next statment, that Ramp "elections" continue as long as necessary TO RESOLVE LEGACY APPEALS.  That is, people in legacy appeals can stay in legacy appeals, but when that last legacy appeal is done, that . is it and everyone has to be in RAMP.   Your interpretation is also plausable.  

RAMP offers Veterans an opportunity to submit new evidence in the "Supplemental Claim lane", but not in HLR.  

There are also changes in RAMP at the BVA level, at least according to CCK law:https://cck-law.com/news/what-veterans-should-know-about-vas-proposed-appeals-reform-regulations/

Its not suprising there is confusion and disagreements about RAMP; there is confusion and disagreements on SMC and those regulations have been in place for decades.  

We should find out for certain if RAMP remains optional next month, there is no doubt in my mind RAMP is in constant flux, and they are not calling it a "pilot program" for no reason.  

Edited by broncovet

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