On 29 January 2018, the Ms. Kelsey Yoon, the national director for the Veterans Benefits Program (VBP) of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), wrote the state councils of her organization to provide general guidance on the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) put in place by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as one of the means to produce faster turnaround times for compensation claims, thereby reducing the backlog continuing to plague the VA. The letter was disturbing, and we believe it important to spread word of its contents to a wider audience, since it may affect you or one of your loved ones. The following is an extracted from her letter:
… On August 23, 2017, Congress enacted the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which will drastically change the VA claims and appeals process. The new law will officially go into effect February 2019. [However,] the VA has already initiated a temporary program that partially implements the new law. This temporary program is called RAMP.
To participate in RAMP, veterans must receive an “opt-in” letter from VA asking if they wish to participate in this optional pilot program. Choosing to opt-in to RAMP is an irreversible decision. RAMP uses different legal standards and rules that may not be pro-veteran; a “faster decision” does not mean a “favorable decision.” Due to various factors, it is the current position of the Veterans Benefits Program (VBP) that veterans not opt-in to RAMP at this time.
Importantly, it is strongly encouraged for anyone receiving a RAMP letter who has questions to reach out to his or her local accredited service representative for guidance. Accredited service representatives are able to look up the claim and see what is going on, as well as, provide claim specific advice. Without the proper training and expertise, it may be difficult for a person who is not a service officer to answer some of the more intricate and complex questions that may arise from RAMP inquiries …
As in the past, the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council recommends that no veteran represent himself when filing a claim and in all instances uses an accredited veterans service officer. This situation is just one more example of the reasoning behind our recommendation. Locally, these card carrying, properly trained service officers can be found by consulting the Veterans Benefit Counselor page in our Answers Desk section (on the right of this page) of this blogsite. If it is your desire to use a VVA service officer (none located in the Lehigh Valley), click here. Let them help you decide the best route for filing your claim – there are others.
9 February 2018