Five Questions With: Robert V. Chisholm

Providence-based law firm Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Ltd., which specializes in complex disability insurance cases, has developed a free tool to help veterans calculating benefits. Its online calculator is designed to help veterans figure out their combined disability rating, which can be “a challenging and confusing process,” according to the firm’s website.

“What may first appear as simple addition turns into calculating percentages of percentages. Using VA Math, 2+2 does not [equal] 4,” reads the firm’s website.

Robert V. Chisholm, founding partner of Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick, spoke with Providence Business News.


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PBN: How long did it take to create this online tool from the time the need was determined to its launch?

CHISHOLM: It took about seven weeks to build and test. We started in November of 2018 and launched on Dec. 18, 2018.

PBN: The calculator resource appears able to narrow down a veteran’s unique situation fairly easily. How did its creation come about?

CHISHOLM: Before this tool existed, veterans were required to perform complex mathematical calculations based on the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’] assigned disability ratings and continuously evolving compensation rates. This complicated process was prone to errors and miscalculations, causing veterans to overestimate or underestimate the amount of back pay they might receive.

The VA Disability Retro Calculator came about in an effort to assist veterans in determining the amount of VA disability back pay they might be due based on the number of months that have passed from the time they applied for benefits to the time VA awarded benefits.

PBN: The law firm uses the term “VA math.” Can you explain what that means?

CHISHOLM: When a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, each with its own disability rating, VA combines them together using VA math. In doing so, VA starts with the premise that a veteran is 100% efficient, or nondisabled. If a veteran has a disability rating of 20%, VA will see him or her as 80% nondisabled and 20% disabled. If he or she then receives another disability rating of 10%, VA will take 10% of the 80% nondisabled portion and add it to the existing 20% disability rating.

VA starts with the veteran’s highest disability rating and then works down the list of disabilities, combining them from highest to lowest. Once VA has combined all of the disabilities, it will round to the nearest 10% and the veteran will receive that compensation rate.

PBN: What does this free resource offer to veterans in terms of value?

CHISHOLM: The VA Disability Retro Calculator takes all of the factors involved in VA’s complex mathematical process and boils them down to a few, straightforward questions. This free, easy-to-use tool offers veterans valuable information that they would otherwise spend a significant amount of time and energy trying to figure out. The calculator alleviates that burden and allows veterans to focus on other important aspects of the disability claims process.

PBN: What has been the user response to the calculator so far?

CHISHOLM: The calculator has been used almost 14,000 times. Users have found that it provides a quick and easy way to get an immediate estimate of VA disability back pay at no cost to them.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.