Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon, welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me, as my guest, attorney Nathan Guin, of Gardberg & Kemmerly Attorneys at Law. Nathan, thanks for being with us.
Nathan Guin: Thanks for having me again, Cindy, I really appreciate it. I’m excited to get some good information out there for our veterans today.
Cindy Speaker: Well, you always do, so I know this will be no different and we appreciate that. Nathan, we’re going to we’re going to talk today about a Veteran’s program called the RAMP program, I believe. So tell us what that is.
Nathan Guin: So the RAMP program is an acronym for the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program and essentially what it is right now, is the VA is starting a new appeals it’s called the appeals modernization program, and they are basically implementing a new system of appeals starting in February of 2019. But what RAMP is doing, RAMP is essentially a way for veterans to opt-in to the new system early, and it seems, on its face, like it’s a really good system, a good program, but we’ll get into it a little bit today that there’re some downfalls, and some pitfalls to the RAMP program. But on its face it’s essentially a way to get into this, this new program early.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Okay. Well, tell us a little bit about the pros of the program.
Nathan Guin: The biggest pro and really the only pro that, at least we see here, is that you do get a decision really, really quickly. So if you pull your case from the what’s called now, the Legacy’s Appeals Process. That’s the traditional process that we’re still using now. They haven’t switched out of that yet. If you pull it from there, then you get a decision and somewhere between 90 to 120 days, I think 120 days is the max in terms of the longest you really have to wait, and then you get a new decision. But there’s always, like I said, pitfalls that come along with that. And so what we’re really seeing is they’re getting a lot of decisions out quickly like they say, but there are a lot of denials that are being put out quickly. There’s not a lot of people who are getting grants that we’ve really heard of through the RAMP program. It seems like it’s been a way for them to expeditiously deny a lot of claims.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Well, and that leads us to what are some of the cons?
Nathan Guin: So the cons are, and I’ve got a few of them written down, so please pardon my notes. Really, the biggest thing, one of the biggest things is when you get your decision back you won’t be able to appeal or do anything until at least February of 2019 because that’s when everything else is kind of getting started up. So you’re really in limbo and they also require you to take all of your appeals out of the Legacy Program and into the RAMP program. So let’s say you have one claim that you really want to be dealt with quickly, that you think you ever really … let’s say you have a really good claim for PTSD. You’ve got really good treatment records. You’ve got a psychiatrist that says that it’s related to your combat experience.
Nathan Guin: I mean, everything with that claim is good, but maybe you have a claim for a right knee issue or something that might be different, that may not be as strong. It may need some more work done when if they require you to pull that into it just as well as the PTSD clinic. You can’t really pick and choose which ones you want to use if you opt it’s 100% opt-in. And then after the fact, they really limit your appeals options. It’s kind of very quick at first and it is very rapid, to begin with. You get a decision very, very quickly. But after that, the veterans are really left in limbo. And in a new system that, to be honest with you, hasn’t really been kind of honed-in and they haven’t really clarified it and gotten it. Yeah. This is brand new and so with a system that’s already really, really confusing, the new system can even be more confusing.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. So you mentioned opting-in, do you have to opt into this program?
Nathan Guin: Yeah. So you have to opt-in. They can’t just put you in, it’s not an opt-out program where you’re in unless you send something in affirmatively taking yourself out of the program. It is an opt-in program and I’ve had a lot of people ask me about that, a lot of veterans and ask me because what they will do, and a lot of veterans have seen this, and a lot of them still will, each month there’re sending more and more letters to more and more veterans, and that means they were sending the same veteran a letter every month for a couple months and they may begin to think, “Well, I have to opt-into this, or I need to opt-into this otherwise they wouldn’t be sending me this letter all the time. They’re just sending them out to everybody. So if you get it if you get the letter multiple times, don’t feel like you have to opt-in or that you should opt-in just because you’re getting the letter. Everybody else is. It’s no indication of what you should do with your case or how strong the case is. They’re not reaching out to specific veterans. This is to everybody.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. So when they get these letters, and I can understand what you’re saying, that it might be like, “What am I supposed to do? I keep getting the letters.” What do you advise that they do with the letters or how do they go from there?
Nathan Guin: Well, our advice is very simple. At our firm, we’re not opting-in to that. We’re recommending that people would not opt-into the program. We’ve had a couple of new clients, that we’ve taken, that have opted in. We’re going to kind of see how that goes. Just kind of want to just to kind of test the waters and see since they already had opted-in. So we’ll see what happens there. But currently where we’re advising people not to opt-in, and, as we’ve talked about, I think on here before, we’re all members of a national organization for Veterans Advocates, and we’ve consulted with other firms, other attorneys that do the same kind of work that we do. None of them think this is a really beneficial program for the veterans and from our understanding, the majority of them are advising their veterans not to opt-in.
Nathan Guin: And so our advice would be if get the letter, trash it, you don’t need it. It’s not going to affect your claim at all unless you really want to opt-into it. There’re very limited circumstances where I think it would benefit the veteran to opt-in. Really the veteran who has one claim or claims that are just airtight, you really have to have good claims before you go into it or else you’re really going to be left in limbo with the denial and without any kind of idea what to do with it.
Cindy Speaker: Right? Hey, this is really helpful information, especially if these are going out in mass. I’m sure it’s very confusing.
Nathan Guin: Yeah, well it started out as just, I think it was 5,000, 10,000 a month, and then they’ve been doing it exponentially to where now they’re sending out hundreds of thousands in a month, and they’re sending it to the same people and then additional people. So we’ve got veterans you have called us multiple times and say, “I keep getting this same letter, what am I supposed to do?” And the same answers, always the same, “Just throw it away, let it go.” And once we have to go into the new appeals process, we will. I mean, obviously, that’s just part of the part of the deal, but right now we’re going to stay in the Legacy Process until we get to the point where everybody’s in the new system.
Cindy Speaker: Okay, very good. Well, Nathan, if someone has a specific question, how can they reach out to you guys?
Nathan Guin: They can give us a call, and that number is 251-343-1111, or you can go online and reach out to us there. It’s www.gardberglaw.com, and that’s G-A-R-D-B-E-R-G law.com. You can check out our website and there’s also a contact us tab, I believe, where you can send an email or a message to us with your question or concern and we can get back to you and help you out with that.
Cindy Speaker: Excellent. As always, thanks for being with us today, Nathan.
Nathan Guin: Absolutely. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
Cindy Speaker: You bet. To those of you that are watching, either live or by replay, if you have questions or comments, reach out to Nathan or you can also just put your question right on this page and we’ll make sure somebody answers it for you. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day.