Hi, my name is Ryan Gallucci and I’m the director of the VFW National Veterans Service. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about appeals reform. Over the past two years, the VFW has been working with Congress and VA to reform the outdated and convoluted VA appeals process. This past summer, the president signed the Appeals Modernization Act into law. This new law means that by February 2019, veterans will have new options to more easily resolve rating decisions disagreements in a timely manner without appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals. In the meantime, VA has the authority to implement new programs in an effort to address the 400,000 appeals currently awaiting adjudication. On November 1, VA launched the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, which offers veterans with some of the oldest Appeals the option to seek a new rating decision through one of two new adjudication lanes. These lanes are called: supplemental claims and higher-level review. The first thing you should know about RAMP is that VA is rolling this out slowly to eligible veterans. If you have an appeal pending with VA, VA will notify you by mail if you’re eligible to participate. You’ll receive this letter explaining your options along with an opt-in form at the end of the package. Now, before you make a decision on whether or not you want to opt into RAMP, please speak with your VFW accredited representative, or the VA accredited representative you have worked with on past claims. If you have never worked with a representative, appoint one now. You can find your local, highly-trained, professional, accredited VFW representative at www.VFW.org/NVS, or by calling toll free at 1-800-VFW-1899. Next, let’s discuss the two lanes VA is offering through RAMP. The first, supplemental claims lane is for veterans who have new and relevant evidence to submit to VA. If you opt-in to the supplemental claims lane, you’re formally withdrawing your pending appeal and filing a new claim for VA to consider. Now, don’t be alarmed. Even though you technically withdraw your appeal, your effective date will not change if you submit new and relevant evidence. You’re probably now asking, “How do I know what’s new and relevant?” so let’s look at an example. Say you had appealed your 30 percent decision on post-traumatic stress disorder seeking a higher rating, new and relevant evidence could include a lay statement from a spouse explaining symptoms that demonstrate a higher rating, such as violent outbursts, neglect of personal appearance, or suicidal ideation. It could also include new treatment records from a health care provider that you’d seen since the last rating decision was issued since these are relevant to your current level of impairment. However, if you appealed that same 30 percent decision and submitted your diagnosis for PTSD, this would not be considered new and relevant as VA has already granted service connection. This was just one example. If you have questions about new and relevant evidence, as always talk to your accredited representative. Secondly, higher level review is for veterans who want VA to issue a new rating decision but believe that VA has in its possession all the evidence necessary to grant the claim. If you choose the higher level review lane, you are formally withdrawing your pending appeals, informing VA that they have all the evidence they should need, and asking VA to have a more experienced staff member review your file to issue a new rating decision. As with the Supplemental Claim option, your original effective date is protected in this process. If you’re wondering what kinds of appeals would work for this lane, here’s another example. Say you filed a claim for fibromyalgia related to Gulf War Service. and VA denied service connection. Your claim file already includes your military service records documenting covered Southwest Asia service as well as both a current diagnosis and VA treatment records for fibromyalgia. Since fibromyalgia is a presumptive condition for Gulf War service, you do not need to submit anything else. You only need a more experienced VA rater to apply the proper regulations and grant service connection. This may be a proper scenario to request higher level review. But as always talk to your accredited representative for advice on which option to choose. Now there is a third option, but it doesn’t require you to fill out a form If you receive the opt-in letter, but don’t want to change the course of your pending appeal you don’t have to. You can just ignore the form. In fact, shred the form. If you choose not to respond to the letter, you will maintain your appeal docket date and your appeal will proceed in normal order to the board of veterans appeals. So you may be asking, “What if they still deny me under this new process? Am I out of luck? Why is VA addressing pending appeals like this?” Let’s try to put your mind at ease on each of these. Now, if you opt in to RAMP but are still dissatisfied with your rating decision, you can still appeal that decision to the Board of Veterans Appeals. However, please note that your appeal will now be governed by a new set of business processes that will not go into place until February of 2019. As far as why VA is choosing this option, the goal is to resolve as many appeals as possible in a new, non-adversarial process while preserving your date of claim. This is a good thing. In the past, once you filed your notice of disagreement with VA, it kicked off a series of rigid and often redundant business processes before you could receive a new decision even if the issue at hand was minor and easily resolved like the two examples we already discussed. This new program hopes to get appeals results accurately and in a more timely manner. I understand that this program is new and that there are still lots of questions about it. However, I hope this video helped explain a little of what we know about RAMP now that the program has kicked off. As always, if you have questions don’t go it alone. Seek out the professional advice of a highly qualified, VA accredited VFW representative. To find one near you, once again visit www.VFW.org/NVS or call us toll free at 1-800-VFW-1899. Thanks again for your time, and remember no one does more for veterans than the VFW.