10 Former NFL Players Suing League Over Alleged ‘Wrongful Denial’ of Disability Payments
The NFL has landed in a little bit of trouble right before this year’s Super Bowl.
A group of former NFL players is suing the league’s disability benefit program, commissioner Roger Goodell and the disability board, accusing them of denying disability claims.
The ten players — Alex Parsons, Eric Smith, Charles Sims, Joey Thomas, Lance Zeno, Jason Alford, Daniel Loper, Willis McGahee, Michael McKenzie and Jamize Olawale — said they were
“seeking redress for the wrongful denial of benefits, the denial of statutorily mandated full and fair review of benefits denials, violations of plan terms or governing regulations, and breaches of fiduciary duty.”
Several of the former players behind the lawsuit allege they had benefits applications denied multiple times, and claim the NFL displayed a
“disturbing pattern of erroneous and arbitrary benefits denials, bad faith contract misinterpretations, and other unscrupulous tactics,”
when it came to withholding disability benefits.
The players also allege that the league, Goodell, and the board limited
“the payment of benefits to the very Players whom the Plan was designed to help,” forcing them “to navigate a byzantine process in order to attempt to obtain those benefits, only to be met with denial.”
The complaint also states that denial rates exceeded 90% and that doctors who were paid a significant amount by the NFL would minimize injury complaints in their reports, which would then allow the league to deny applications.
Between March 31, 2019, and April 1, 2020 physicians who were paid more than $210,000 found only 4.5% of players to be totally or permanently disabled, however, physicians paid $54,000-$60,000 found 30% of players disabled.
On Wednesday (Feb. 8), Commissioner Goodell spoke about disability benefits at a press conference before the lawsuit was filed and said that the NFL has to,
“have a system to be able to identify who qualifies for those benefits and who doesn’t qualify for those benefits, and that’s done with union and management. And the facts are that’s done independently with doctors who make a determination of whether… an individual qualifies under that program.”
“So you don’t want people to benefit from it that don’t qualify for it, because it takes away from people who do qualify for it. So you’re always going to have people who may think they qualify for it — doctors disagree, the joint board disagrees. That’s a way the system works, but I would tell you the benefits in the NFL are off the charts.”
An NFL spokesperson told sources that the disability plan,
“includes an uncapped financial commitment to provide benefits for any retired player that meets the eligibility requirements set by the parties.”
“These eligibility requirements and administrative procedures were developed after consultation with occupational, mental and physical health experts. The plan annually provides more than $330 million to deserving players and their families.”
The statement continued,
“The NFL-NFLPA disability plan is fair and administered by a professional staff overseen by a board comprised of an equal number of appointees of the NFL Players Association and the league, which includes retired players. This board reviews the activities of the office and operation of the benefit program, including every contested application for benefits to ensure that retired players who are entitled to disability benefits receive them as intended.”
According to reports, NFL disability benefits can range from $65,000 a year to $265,000 a year depending on when and how the injury took place.
The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and monetary compensation while requesting that six board members be removed for the “repeated and substantial derelictions of their responsibilities” and “breaches of the fiduciary duty of loyalty to the Plan.”
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