George Visger: An Open Letter to DeMaurice Smith
March 4, 2012
On January 6, 2012, I met with Congresswoman Linda Sanchez at her southern California office with Mr. Mike Greenhaulgh, part owner/operator of the Sacramento Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment center where I have been receiving treatments for the last two years, and Dr. William Duncan, President of the Hyperbaric Medical Association and Capital lobbyist. My 49ers teammate, Dan Bunz, and I also met with Senator Ted Gaines on December 27 and February 22, 2012. All the meetings were to address the legality of the NFL’s lack of benefits for its injured employees. Both Congresswoman Sanchez and Senator Gaines are looking into additional Congressional hearings on this matter.
We are trying to gather solid information to ascertain the status of former employees/players of the NFL. For many years, we have been inundated with mixed information regarding the percentage of former employees/players who actually qualify for NFL retirement benefits, the percentage of former employee/players forced to draw SSI and life expectancy of former employee/players. With you being the President of the NFL Players Association, in charge of securing and overseeing the player’s/employee’s benefits, I am requesting data on the following:
- What is the average life expectancy of a former NFL employee/player? Many years ago a letter was issued from the NFL encouraging players to take their retirement benefits early as most would not live to retirement age. This was followed up with a recent survey letters asking if we were still alive. I had been told for years that the average life expectancy of a former NFL employee/player was his late 50’s.
- What percentage of all pre-93 employees/players who played in the NFL actually played long enough to reach the 4-year vesting threshold? From what I am reading now, the average NFL career is only 3.2 years. The numbers I was given when I played in 1980 and 1981 was 2-½ years. Surely the NFLPA maintains a roster of all players who were on active rosters at one time or another.
- What percentage of employee/players have successfully been approved for SSI? After my 3rd evaluation at Dr. Amen’s clinic January, 2012, I was given a referral to file for SSI as Dr. Amen had me rated at 100% disabled due to frontal lobe dementia and damage to my temporal lobes of my brain.
- If a player qualifies for SSI disability, how can he be denied NFL disability? How can the NFL’s disability requirements be higher than those of the general public?
- What percentage of employee/players have successfully been approved for Medicare?
- How many of Tom Condon’s clients were approved for NFL benefits as opposed to the general number of players who were approved (or declined)?
- When did NFL employee/players begin filing for Workers Compensation?
- What percentage of NFL employee/players have been approved for Workers Compensation?
As President of the NFL Players Association, I realize you have been a staunch advocate for injured employee/players such as myself. I appreciate all you have done to ensure our families are justly compensated for our inability to provide for them during our numerous employment-caused surgeries and subsequent life-altering disabilities. I personally have survived fractures to my C-6, C-7 and S-8 vertebrae, 9 emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries, multiple gran mal seizures and 3 knee surgeries on my left knee, including an experimental Gore-Tex ACL transplant which finally failed on February 23, 2012. I have been on anti-seizure meds for the last 25 years, and was taking 3 separate dementia medicines and gran mal seizure medicines last year to help me function.
My S-8 vertebrae was fractured during my rookie season, though not diagnosed until the following May, 1981 by a 49ers physician. All of my knee surgeries and brain surgeries were results of injuries I sustained during the 1981 season. I had never undergone a surgery prior to the 1981 season, when I underwent my first knee and brain surgeries.
I look forward to your detailed reply to the above questions, as the data will be important to assist you in securing benefits for injured former employees of the NFL.
With sincerest regards,
San Francisco 49ers
1980 & 1981
Visger & Associates
cc: Dr. Rich Ellenbogen
cc: Senator Ted Gaines
cc: Congresswoman Linda Sanchez