The VA has officially started their renovation of the VA appeals process—hooray!
However, it isn’t quite time to celebrate for everyone. The VA’s new RAMP (“Rapid Appeals Modernization Program”) will only be available by invitation until the full program is implemented sometime before February 2019.
Starting this month (November 2017), the VA will be sending out RAMP invitations to eligible veterans with pending VA appeals. The invites won’t go out to everyone, so even if you are “eligible” and have had your appeal pending for a while, it doesn’t mean you’ll get one.
The VA’s goal is to slowly grow this program over the next year or so until it can support the full load of every veteran’s appeal. Thus, they’ll be regularly sending out invites throughout the year, and once their infrastructure is solid enough, they’ll open the RAMP program up for everyone.
So what does this mean for you?
If you have not yet submitted an appeal, then you can submit your appeal using the current VA appeals process. You cannot yet apply directly to the RAMP program as invitations are only going out to veterans who already have their VA appeals pending. Sometime before February 2019, the VA will open up the RAMP program to new appeals as well, but there is no way to know exactly when, so you have to still apply via the current system. Although, once your appeal is in the system and pending, you might get a RAMP invite.
If you have already submitted a VA appeal, then just sit back and wait. You might receive a RAMP invitation sometime this coming year, but there is nothing that you can actively do right now.
If you receive a RAMP invitation, then you have the option to choose whether to participate in the new RAMP process or to leave your appeal in the old process. Either way could be fine, depending on your case, and it is completely up to you.
The goal of RAMP is to make the VA appeals process faster, so it may be in your best interest to switch to RAMP. However, if you’ve been pending for awhile and your case is more complicated, it may be better to stay.
Under RAMP, you have the ability to choose one of three “lanes” to put your appeal in. If you pick the best lane for your type of case, then it will be reviewed much more quickly than the current system. If, however, you pick the wrong lane or it is too complicated for a particular lane, it will then be transferred to the other lane or the BVA’s longer line.
Even under RAMP, more complicated cases must go to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), but the BVA will not be reviewing any RAMP cases until February 2019. Until then, the BVA will simply focus on the pending appeals in the current system.
It’s important that you understand the types of cases that should be put in each lane so that you make the best decision for your VA appeal:
1. Local Higher Level Review. This lane is for cases that don’t have any new evidence and are fairly straightforward. If the VA made an error and the evidence in the claim clearly proves their error, then this is the lane for you. The majority of appeals that don’t have new evidence will be fine in this lane.
2. New Evidence. This lane is for claims that have new evidence that wasn’t submitted with the original claim. If the VA made a decision about your case, but didn’t have all the evidence and you’d like to submit additional evidence, then this is the lane for you. Only submit to this lane if you have new evidence regarding your conditions that the VA has not yet seen.
3. The Board. This lane sends a case directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). Again, however, the BVA will not be reviewing cases under RAMP until February 2019 as they are already overwhelmed under the current system and need to focus on that.
So until the RAMP program is fully implemented, only the first two lanes will be beneficial. If you decide to participate in the RAMP program under one of the first two lanes, and disagree with their decision, then you can appeal directly to the BVA.
As the BVA will be focusing on the current appeals, it is definitely fine to choose to not participate in the RAMP program. Depending on your case, however, the RAMP program may be a godsend. In reality, the majority of VA appeals are fairly straightforward cases that are simply bogged down in the overload of the current system. This new RAMP system will allow those cases to be separated out and reviewed more quickly.
Ultimately, the VA’s new RAMP program should make the VA appeals process much better in the long run by dividing the labor among three lanes instead of it all landing on the BVA. However, it will take some time to fully implement and be available to everyone. Hopefully during that time, they’ll be able to work out the kinks and have a solid system ready to go by February 2019.
I definitely see your confusion. I assume that your original condition was rated 10%. If so, then it looks like they did grant an increase to 20% but the severity of your instability wasn't enough to meet the requirements for a 30% rating. If this is correct, then yes, you should find that your increase is to 20%.
Hello Dr. Johnson; I've been fighting the VA on appeals since 2013 and last October, 2019, I had a board hearing in Wash DC. I received this letter the other day concerning my appeals. The response was from the Dept of Vet Affairs Appeals Management Ctr and I received this response on one of my appeals; "Your most recent knee examination did show an increase in severity for your right knee instability. Consequently, a higher evaluation was warranted for the condition. The details of that determination are spelled out in a separate rating decision. However, the examination fell short of revealing any sign of severe recurrent subluxation, or instability that is severe in nature. Accordingly, an evaluation of 20 percent disabling is denied." What is the heck does this mean? Was it granted or not?
It depends. In essence, it's neither good or bad except for the additional time delay it will cause. They simply are sending the appeal back to gather additional information that is needed in order to determine the appeal. Once they have the additional information, they will continue to process it as usual. If they do not receive it, though, then they will end up denying the claim as they do not have enough evidence currently to approve it.
Hello Dr.Johnson; I've been dealing with an appeal for a few years now and I finally got a response from the VA the other day on that appeal. I'm not sure what to think of it. So I need your opinion. My two appeal claims were neither denied or granted, they were remanded. I understand what it means, but in your opinion, is my case being; "remanded" a good thing, a bad thing or neither?
Absolutely. As long as you can show proof that all of your current conditions are a direct result of the broken leg and/or the service-connected arthritis, they will also be considered service-connected (secondary). Medical records showing the connection and a NEXUS letter from your physician noting the connection will strengthen your case.
Thanks Dr. Johnson. I broke my L leg in 5 places when I was in the service and one of those breaks had to be fixed by rodding my femur and my hip has been giving me problems ever since. My rating is for arthritis in all 3 joints in my leg. Right now I need a surgery called; a "gluteus maximus transfer." I need this operation because of the following; "a significant amount of his gluteus medius is torn" "Heterotopic bone formation noted superiorly". The doctor who performed my examination noted the I have "a severe limp" and I have "Trendelenburg gait" with "2/5 strength in hip flexion." With this information, do you think any of these conditions are rate able?
Hi Jimmy –
No, a limp alone cannot be rated, but whatever is causing the limp can. If you are already being rated for the condition that is causing it, then it is already being covered by that rating.
Hello Dr. Johnson, I have a pronounced limp due to an accident I had back when I was in the military. I'm being compensated for all the things that happened to me because of that accident, but I'm not being compensated for my pronounced limp which has been annotated on many of my orthopedic records. Is there a compensation rating for a limp?
Both claims denied! What was your outcome?
Thank you Dr Johnson! I appreciate the reply!
Technically, conditions must be officially diagnosed BEFORE you can submit a claim for them. Since it hadn't been diagnosed, they were correct to deny the claim. It is not their job during the disability process to diagnose conditions.
Now that it has been diagnosed, you can try to submit a new claim. In order for your claim to have a solid chance, you will need to also submit a NEXUS letter from your physician stating that the current sleep apnea diagnosis was clearly present during service based on the symptoms recorded in your service treatment records.
Great! Disappointing that it took longer than it should have, but good to see that the decision was in your favor and still faster than the Legacy appeals system.
Hi Dr. Johnson,
While in the Marine Corps, stationed in Hawaii, my wife kept complaining of me snoring and stopping breathing when I was a sleep. I went to see a doctor (documented in my medical records) and they scheduled me a sleep study. Not sure what it shoed, but the doctor suggested I have my tonsils removed, because If I was placed on a CPAP, I would be medically discharged. I had my tonsils removed , but the medical reason was "re-occuring" tonsilitus, even though I had never been seen for that. I was medically discharged in 2003 (an issue not related to sleep apnea) and upon separation I applied for compensation and treatment for sleep apnea (as well as several other issues). I never went to an exam for sleep apnea, and was denied as they stated I had complained about it, but there was no diagnosis. I went to see a specialist and was on a CPAP (and have been on one since) my denial by the VA. I am considering fighting the VA on this again. My question is, was the VA required to do a sleep study for me during my initial claim? If so can this be retroactive? If not where should I go from here? I am just frustrated I let the VA roll over me years ago, and maybe I should have fought harder.
Update: Was approved through RAMP. Changed from 30% to 70% on one of my disabilities. Also rewarded a good amount of back time (for me it was a good amount).
You can apply for the left hip as secondary to the right hip. If you can get a NEXUS letter from your doctor stating the connection, that will strengthen your case.
"Disintegration" is a bit ambiguous, however. Without a solid diagnosis, the VA won't have anything definite to rate.
I have a VA disability rating on my right hip but because I put most of my weight on my left hip, my left hip joint now is showing signs of disintegration (orthopedic doctor's words). My orthopedic doctor thinks because I'm using my left hip to compensate for my weak right hip, it's adversely affecting my left hip. Is there a compensation code for this issue?
No. They are supposed to just review the conditions on appeal. They shouldn't look at the others at all.
I'm going through that right now. My ramp closed on Feb 1 2019 but ebenefits doesn't show any ratings. Have you heard anything yet?
I recently joined RAMP to review my appeal, was wondering can RAMP reduce my disability rating for other conditions not apart of my appeal
Glad we've helped!
It's not a great sign that they have it listed as closed. If you didn't request for it to be closed, then they should still have it open, and I'm hoping that it is just a system error. This may actually be the case since they are transitioning fully into RAMP starting mid-February, so they may be doing some tech work on the system.
However, they should be able to do some research and find out the truth for you at your Regional VA. At least they should be able to tell you who to contact to get the information you need. I would push them a bit more and see if you can't get something from them, even just a referral to someone else to talk to.
I am giving you thanks for the exelent help that you give us.
I opted into RAMP in July 2018. I was notified by the VA that my appeal was discontinued at my request on Jan 23rd. After a little panic, I researched and the current status is that The VA cannot track appeals under RAMP and listed my appeal as closed. So now, I can only assume it is still active, and have no way to verify. A call to the Regional Office of the VA gave me the answer that they do not know either. Any suggestions?
It is quite common for injuries like yours to cause wear and tear on the nearby joints, thus causing serious conditions in the future.
You definitely have a case here, the VA just needs to be able to have all the evidence of the original injury and evidence of the conditions progression over the years. A letter from your physician clearly noting his opinion that the current conditions are due to the abnormal gate caused by the injury will definitely strengthen your case.
In 1986 while active duty play intramural Football, broke my pelvis in 3 places and was paralyzed for 4 hours. Feelings cam back and was airlifted to Wright Pat. for treatment. No surgery required, but laid up for 6 mths to heal. I had some pain in hips and pelvic region for years, but just dealt with it. In the last 3 years thinks have gone sideways. I had meniscus surgery on right knee and will need surgery on left knee next year. I've had severe hip pain and have seen my Dr on several occasions, with xrays showing cartilage wear. My Dr said that my "gate" is off and felt my pelvic fracture was the cause.
I applied for Va disability and was denied. I hired an attorney and applied. I was invited to the RAMP process and accepted. I found out at the hearing VA didn't have my military medical records ( I uploaded in e-benefits -figures). I provided them to hearing officer.
What is your take on this since it is 30 years since my injury.
(sorry if too wordy – wanted to give you a good history)
What did the VA say was their reason for denying the first two conditions?
A buddy statement for a condition that was not diagnosed in service is completely powerless. Were you ever seen for the poor blood circulation? Do you have official medical records documenting these conditions and trying to find a diagnosis? If you didn't even get these evaluated during service, it will be probably impossible to get this service-connected now. Same goes for Sjogren's and endometriosis. Even with some evidence, if it wasn't diagnosed within the first year post-service, it will be difficult to prove.
The hemorrhoids and tinnitus, however, you have a much stronger case for. If both were diagnosed during service (or your MOS is on the list), you should be able to get these ones. Definitely appeal. Again, though, the best way to appeal will depend on the VA's exact reasons for denial.
I submitted a very large FDC claim in June 2018 it all of it was denied except one item. My question is how I should go about appealing or if it isn’t pointless. There are 3 items in particular I don’t understand why it was denied because:
1. the hemorrhoids w fissures were diagnosed while active duty.
2.The tinnitus was denied and my AFSC is on the list of routinely noise exposed 1C1X1. 3. And my Raynauds was denied but I had a buddy statement that explained I was given a jokingly hard time about having poor circulation to my hands and feet when I would complain about how cold they were while working indoors. This one I can understand I guess…
4. I was only evaluated for a C&P exam for the tinnitus and my knees! (which I received an increase for a knee). No VA Exams for any of the other items.
5. I submitted DBQs for endometriosis, Raynaud’s, and hemorrhoids. I did NOT receive a diagnosis of endometriosis and sjogrens while in service but I had symptoms of these conditions, which average a very long time to diagnose 6+ years. I have records of symptoms of these items during service after what I believe to be the triggering traumatic event—the death of my daughter while I was active duty.
Should I appeal this th traditional route or the RAMP route? And is it pointless to pursue the endometriosis and sjogrens if it wasn’t diagnosed until 2-6 years post service (even if there are records of symptoms following a traumatic event)?
Thank you for your time.
It can't technically be invalidated. They'll just have you appeal it, which would have happened had you not agreed with the decision even with the phone call, unfortunately.
Really, your only next option is to appeal in the Supplemental Claim Lane. Make sure to include whatever you want to say in an affidavit as new evidence. Although it may not be new evidence, they'll at least hear your thoughts without the phone call.
I signup for the RAMP program. I selected the higher-level lane and I ask for one-time telephonic informal conference the reviewer to discuss some of the issues i disagree with. The VA made a decision without ever allowing me my one-time telephonic informal conference with the reviewer. Can I have the rating decision invalidated because VA did not follow procedures they promised me when I signed up for it? What should I do?
I'm sorry to hear that. Try the American Legion or one of your local VSOs. Hopefully you'll find someone more responsive who can sit down and review your case with you.
More like "glacial" appeal, right?
VA accepted my RAMP 30 Mar 2018. My most recent data shows that it is in review and may be completed August 2019. Go Rapid Appeal….
I have not found DAV to be very helpful at all….
They didn't help me with anything. Every time I called them, I had to leave a message that they never returned.
Changed again to 03/16/2019 – 11/11/2019
Have you connected with Disabled American Veterans or other service organizations? They may have some way to assist you during this process.
We started or ramp in jun2018 they keep pushing it back it was first they said it would be done by out 2018 now it has been pushed back to April 2018 the only thing it says is thank you for your ramp we are still adding more things we are losing house house and motorcycles on this we went from 80% to 20 percent becouse some nice va guy said nothing is wrong with my husband that got discharged 20 years ago saying he needs knee replacement but being to young they will not do anything to oh nothing is wrong with you and I hate the waiting game this sucks our house is in foreclosure and bill collectors are calling becouse some doctor that is was nice to drop him and say nothing g is wrong with him I'm so post of my kids have not had Heisman or birthdays in 3 years fro. This stupid shit we went to a out side doctor and they said that is why they put him back down to 20 percent becouse va does not like that will thank you just so up set this I have fought so much for this we where told our money would not change but oh yes it did we went from 2000 a month to 200 and lost everything next is being homeless is this shit does not get CV done fast enough
We have been in a appeal since June on ramp how long has everyone's been lasting we have been in 3 different appeals for 4 3 years now
Shouldn't matter. If you have medical records showing that it has been officially diagnosed, then you can submit those along with evidence of your MOS and the VA should grant service-connection. They just have to see the current diagnosed condition.
Good job fighting for yourself. Hopefully this additional evidence will make a big difference.
I see. The examiner has a point about the secondary connection. If you are still unsuccessful, it may be better to try and submit a brand new claim for this as a primary condition instead of secondary. This letter is stronger evidence to support a primary connection, so you may have more success taking that route.
Stated that I in fact do have tinnitus and hearing loss but they stated that I didn't claim it on my post deployment paperwork.
Thank you, and it was like pulling teeth from my PCM doc but he agreed to refer me for a 3rd MRI, send me to a neurologist, and recommend and EMG test be done. Hopefully, there will be enough evidence to support my claim and make the VA reconsider before I separate.
Thank you for your response, was looking forward to it..
They denied it after it was written because it was listed as a secondary to my primary service connected disability.. The Psychologist made a note in the C&P report saying that it is medically impossible to be linked to as a secondary… Then after she stated that she wrote the spill you read above, using the CAPITILIZED ‘HOWEVER’ to start the paragraph..
Yet they still denied it…?
Saying ‘No new evidence’..
I appealed under the HLR lane in June- my VSO outlined the exact words the report used to submit the claim..
It’s just shocking to me as the key words used were ‘More Likely Than Not’ and still denied ��
Just hoping the HLR reviewer is properly trained and goes over everything.. Here’s hoping��
The VA will consider other medical evidence if there is enough of it and it seems to paint a more accurate picture of your condition. If your PT could submit range of motion measurements, that could help.
For your radiculopathy, that needs to be officially diagnosed (not by PT) in order for it to be considered. You may want to consider going to see more physicians to have your conditions more thoroughly diagnosed and recorded. Submitting more plentiful and accurate evidence could help your case.
If this was written after the second denial, then it is strong new evidence to support your appeal. You needed someone like this to draw these connections in order for the Rating Authorities to grant it.
Have they yet seen and considered this statement? If not, then hopefully the appeal will have a good outcome. If they have already considered this statement and still denied you, what exactly did they list as their reason for denial? They should specify why this statement wasn't enough to convince them, and if they did, then you know what you can address in your appeal.
That is odd. Marine Infantry is high probability on the Noise Exposure Listing, so you should automatically be service-connected.
What exactly are they giving as their reason for denial?
Good evening, I just received my NARSUM and all my C&P exam results, needless to say the VA doc who did the exam for my primary unfitting condition, spondylithesis. In my opinion did shoddy work. He did not use a Goniometer to measure of my movements pertaining to my lower back issues, although noted he did in the C&P exam paperwork. The measurements he gave would be indicative of a 10% rating, I can barely bend over and walk slightly hunched over and tend to lean to one side and have a drag to my left leg. He noted no radiculopathy, despite having a history of left hip, thigh, and calf pain associated to the back pain and a diagnosis from physical therapy for it. The legal services offered through the Army appear to be less than helpful and I am essentially writing my own appeal an doing Statement in Support of Claim with the VA to try an get a new exam with minimal guidance now and Google. I feel like all hope is lost just considering general "just accept it because its too hard" attitude of everyone I have been dealing with, I am considering hiring a my own lawyer now and getting two separate independent medical examinations from an orthopedic doctor and neurologist to counter the VA examiners perceived incompetence. Thoughts and suggestions are welcome and I live in Colorado if theres anyone worth looking into.
I opted in RAMP (HLR) on June 26, 2018. VA acknowledged it as June 29, 2018. My claim went to Preparation For Decision (PFD) on September 4,
2018. On October 4,2018 it moved to Pending Decision Approval (PDA). It moved Pending Notification the morning of October 19, 2018 and had closed that evening. There were no changes to my disability rating on Ebennie, but VA said that the notification was mailed out on October 19th. Therefore, I've been told to not speculate on it being a denial, but rather…wait until I get the BBE/BWE to know!
I entered RAMP on 3/27/18 and have seen the same extension of decision dates several times now. As a completion date was close to a week away, it would change by another 30 days. As of today (day 204), the completion date is April 2019! That's a tad more than the 125 days advertised.
I entered the RAMP 5/18/2018 and the first note
note was made on 9/10 saying my decision would be between 09/05 -10/03 then it changed from 10/03-11/05 now it saying 10/18-12/03 . Why even call it Rapid appeals if they keep
Extending the date out . I called the benefit line and ask questions for days and then decided to submit! Now I wished I had not. Prior to submitting documents for RAMP they say to read and ask questions and be sure that’s something you want to do because you can’t pull out of it! Nobody takes me reponsibilty of giving incorrect information . I was told less
Than 59 days or up to 120 days . My RAMP is on day 150