New CBA May Contain “Trojan Horse” for Disabled Players

Aug 31, 2011

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By John V. Hogan, Esq.

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The new CBA contains a provision that on its face appears to be of benefit to some retired NFL players receiving Total and Permanent disability benefits under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan. Article 61, Section 2 (a) (i) provides that a player will be permitted to receive up to $30,000 per year of earned (i.e. “work”) income without affecting his disability benefits. Presumably this was enacted to allow guys to be paid some appearance fees or earnings from card signings and other events without jeopardizing their “total disability” eligibility.
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However, I’m sure than many – if not most – retired NFL players who receive T&P disability from the Bell/Rozelle Plan also receive Social Security disability. If so, having earned income up to $30,000 per year would most likely cause a cessation of their SSA benefits. In general, a person receiving Social Security disability benefits may work and earn up to a maximum of $1,000 per month gross ($12,000 per year) before they are deemed to be able to engage in “substantial gainful activity.”

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Under Social Security rules, any work activity must be reported so that the Social Security Administration can determine whether the claimant’s condition has improved. If it has – and they have the ability to work – then they are no longer considered disabled.

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As $12,000 is significantly less than $30,000, I have no doubt that many players will (being confused or not paying attention) exceed SSA’s earnings limit. At that point, they may be faced with a cessation of their disability benefits, liability for overpayment of Social Security benefits they have received after they have engaged in substantial gainful activity, as well as loss of their medical benefits from Medicare.

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Here’s the Trojan Horse: Under Plan Section 5.3(b) a player receiving T&P benefits from the Plan must submit proof annually of his continued receipt of Social Security disability benefits and must immediately report any revocation of those benefits to the Plan. It’s not very difficult to see the scenario that then unfolds – the player is then sent to one of the Plan’s chosen doctors who opines that he is not totally disabled…

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I’m glad to know that some limited income will not automatically disqualify a disabled retired NFL player from receiving his T&P benefits but as a true believer in Murphy’s Law – and as an attorney who has had extensive dealing with the Bell/Rozelle Plan – I’m sure that many guys will come to know how the citizens of Troy felt when the Greeks decimated them.

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I could go on for hours and would be happy to at some other time. I would also be happy to provide you with any specific citations, evidence, etc., you would care to see.

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John Hogan

Disability Attorney

Retired Football Players Advocate

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2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Woody Campbell
    August 31st, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Woody Campbell

    We have no vote or voice/representation. Yet there is a lot of ballyhoo about how we as pre-’93 players will benefit.

    How does that happen if the people deciding on our fate are not in sync with us or have any real appreciation for our plight? I would like to know how we change that beyond our opinions or just collecting our comments!

    Woody Campbell
    Houston Oilers
    1967 – 1971

  2. Dave Pear
    September 2nd, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Dave at Home

    I suspect this is just another debacle clause that was created and designed to dupe and scam retired disabled players (especially the pre-’93ers).

    When will this sinister plot of swindling disabled retired players stop?

    The solution:
    1) An audit of the NFLPA & NFL by the Department of labor and the GAO;
    2) Class Action Lawsuits;
    3) Court of public opinion;
    4) Congress.

    And prosecuting the Groom Law Group because they designed and created this ongoing mess.

    How can a law firm represent the NFLPA, the NFL AND the Bell/Rozelle Retirement Board all at the same time? Only in the NFL because the law never seems to apply to them.

    De Smith said he fired these bushwhackers over a year ago? Oh – but I forgot: De says all the right things but does NOTHING.

    Regards,
    Dave Pear