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George Visger: An Open Letter to DeMaurice Smith

Mar 4, 2012


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March 4, 2012
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De,
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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.
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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. What percentage of employee/players have successfully been approved for Medicare?
  6. 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)?
  7. When did NFL employee/players begin filing for Workers Compensation?
  8. 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.
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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.
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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.
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With sincerest regards,
George Visger
San Francisco 49ers
1980 & 1981
Wildlife Biologist
Visger & Associates
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cc: Dr. Rich Ellenbogen
cc: Senator Ted Gaines
cc: Congresswoman Linda Sanchez
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10 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Gordon Wright
    March 5th, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Gordon Wright - NY Jets

    Nice finished product, George! Hopefully his attention in players matters will be resolved quickly and humanely. Our lives are shortys!

    My wife and I sent a Certified Return Receipt letter to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama concerning my request for NFL benefits. We did receive a response from the honorable First Lady Michelle Obama. She told us to go to the Department of Labor and that is where our request ended. No one in the Department of Labor offered to help me resolve the fact they are responsible for enforcing the 1938 Labor Laws.

    While I do appreciate First Lady Michelle Obama’s response and concern, I know she can not enforce the Labor Laws of 1938. I can say that I and my wife sent a certified letter to Mr. DeMaurice Smith and he never even showed the common courtesy of even responding to my request. Unfortunately, after the recent CBA was completed, I believe former NFL Players such as myself have been assured to receive far less benefits than we received under the late Gene Upshaw and Claude Buddy Young.

    I am still fortunate to be a man with a wife and we are praying, practicing Christians like Tim Tebow, unashamed of our Faith. We know you have to edit what we know as truth from our experiences in our quest for Justice in an NFL system skewed against what is right, moral and humane in the treatment of young men, old men and their families.

    Gordon Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

  2. George Visger
    March 5th, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    George Visger

    Gordon,

    I’m sure we are both very high on Mr. Smith’s reply list. He’s probably much busier than President Obama and the First Lady and thus will not be able to reply as quickly. With the amount of effort Mr. Smith put into procuring benefits for families whose lives are forever damaged due to our short careers, he is probably taking a well-earned vacation in the off-season to spend some of his multimillion dollar salary.

    Let’s all sit tight and wait for his response. After all, as President of the NFL Players Association I’d still like to believe he works for us and replying to his constituents must be on his job description.

    President of the NFL Players Association: The leader in our fight to be justly compensated for our industry caused impairments. Many of which have precluded us from employment, and caused irreparable damage to our families.

    If he calls me first, I will be sure to remind him that you are also waiting for a response. Feel free to give Mr. Smith my phone number as I am sure he probably just misplaced it. Keep in mind with all the budget cuts, the Postal Service has been forced to trim its staff as well.

    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  3. Gordon Wright
    March 6th, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Gordon Wright - NY Jets

    Go, George, Go! Remember the song and movie “Foot Loose” and “Walking Tall”? You inspire me, George. Keep up the good fight.

    Gordon Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

  4. Brian J. Nemeth
    March 7th, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    Brian Nemeth

    Hey George,

    I also was a 49er just before you, back in ’77 – ’78. Too bad I was in traction most of the season! When I was injured, I knew something was wrong. They treated me for a pulled muscle. I was a high hurdler in college and knew it was not a pulled muscle. I couldn’t walk any more so I walked out of practice and by the time I showered, a doctor was present. I was in traction the same day. After removing two disks, I could walk but not well. They actually renewed my contract! I laughed because I knew I couldn’t ever play again. They traded me to the Jets where I failed my very first physical. No surprise – I was still partially paralyzed. I later found out the statute for lawsuits was only one year in California. Was a good move by the 49er management. I’ve endured 4 back surgeries and have developed a disease called Ankylosling Spondolytis. It affects spinal connective tissues. I am trying to get to my doctor in California who was our spine surgeon, Dr. Arthur White.

    Sorry to hear your dilemma – there are thousands of us who did not get vested from the NFLPA or the NFL. There are just too many of us. I have been trying to get injury statistics from anywhere but they are well hidden. A lawyer friend of mine says they must be subpoenaed! During your lawsuit, please try to get our statistics. They would be interesting to see. All of us older players were trained to “stick people and were punished if we did not” long before high school. What ticks me off is these so-called super athletes could not even stay on the field for one quarter with us older guys. They would quit and cry to Momma! Another point is that even rock stars have programs for their fallen comrades but not ours.

    It’s too bad a career-ending injury doesn’t automatically vest us – especially paralyzing ones! We’ll always have the headaches and dementia and I imagine it will worsen as we age.I have read that our average life expectancy is 59! I certainly hope not! I have one year left if that’s true.

    Hang in there and try to get those guard stats for us!

    Brian J. Nemeth
    Tight End
    1976 draft from South Carolina
    to San Francisco 49ers

  5. George Visger
    March 7th, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    George Visger

    Brian,

    I’m very sorry to hear of YOUR dilemma! At least I can still move, I just don’t know where I’m going half the time.

    Unfortunately, we’re the rule and not the exception. With the average NFL career at 3.2 years (supposedly), the vast majority of us never reach vesting status. I find it very interesting the NFL and NFLPA has stats on the average length of careers but seems to have mysteriously “lost” medical stats associated with their injured employees. All those NFLPA dues we graciously donated (including for several years after I played) are apparently going to pay for vacations for De Smith. Not that De hasn’t earned a vacation, especially after his victorious battle for benefits for us all (at least those who played from ’93 on).

    I wish I had answers for you. I would refer you to our Union but afraid with the 59 year life expectancy, neither of us will be around for an answer! The only improvement I’ve actually had during my 31 year battle has been from Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments, and megadoses (18 grams) of Omega 3 fish oil per day.

    Get your name in on the class action lawsuits. Regardless of whether you are vested or not, at least we all count there. There are links to the law firms representing us here on Dave’s Blog. We need all the voices and stories such as yours to educate the public. Who knows: You may be eligible for money to help pay for your surgeries.

    Tomorrow I go in to see my orthopedic surgeon. He did my second and third knee surgeries trying to repair what the 49ers Dr. Doom (as Dr. Fred Behling was known as when I played) screwed up. My third knee surgery was an experimental GoreTex ACL transplant that they bolted in with two moly-bolts. I believe the ligament failed a couple weeks ago but heard they quit doing the GoreTex years ago. Not sure what I am headed for. Thank God I won my Workers Comp case in ’86 or I would be on the hook for this treatment.

    They recently implemented a new law in California allowing players from other states to file Work Comp claims in California. I really can’t be sure but there may be some wiggle room for you.

    Hang tough, brother!

    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  6. George Visger
    March 7th, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    George Visger

    Dear DeMaurice Smith,

    On March 4, 2012, I sent you an email which was also posted here on Dave Pear’s blog, requesting information regarding some of the questions Brain Nemeth (above) just asked, such as the average life expectancy of former NFL players etc.

    I am still anxiously awaiting the data from your office as I am doing everything in my power to facilitate your battle for our earned benefits. Dan Bunz and I were very disappointed you did not reply prior to our meeting yesterday with Congressman Tom McClintock.

    Please forward the data as quickly as you can, as his office stated they had no idea so few NFL players receive their earned benefits. We have additional meetings with other politicians scheduled and will be recognized on the Senate Floor for our battle for all TBI survivors at the end of this month. The data will be very useful when we address the Senate during the Resolution.

    Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Senator Ted Gaines and Congressman Tom McClintock all requested that I forward the data as soon as I receive it, as they would like to review prior to the Senate session.

    Please continue with your fight for our earned benefits. Family’s lives depend on your efforts.

    With Much Admiration,
    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    (and 3+ knee surgeries)
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  7. RobertinSeattle
    March 7th, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    RobertinSeattle

    George & Dan -

    Look at the date on this article after the first Congressional hearings back in ’07. Please feel free to pass this along to your new Congressional and Senatorial contacts as a reminder of how the NFL – and the NFLPA – continues to operate above the law. (Click on the headline to see the full article.)

    LA Times

    NFL to get benefits to disabled players faster
    June 21, 2007|From Bloomberg News

    5 years – FIVE YEARS – since this was declared! And at a cost of at least $1.5 billion every year to the American public when we’re all forced to pay the NFL’s retired players’ benefits through Social Security and Medicare for a total of at least $7.5 billion! Even if our elected House and Senate representatives aren’t interested in football at all – like me – saving this much each year off our public expenditures in these times calling for fiscal responsibility should make everyone interested. And madder than heck!

    Maybe we should point this out to the Occupy Wall Street movement? If ever there was a clear cut case of the 1% screwing the 99%, this is it! Ya think the NFL and the NFLPA just might start paying up pretty fast if OWS people started to occupy football stadiums across the country one night? Hey – it’s warmer in a stadium than it is in a park! (Hint Hint)

    Robert

  8. Brian J. Nemeth
    March 8th, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Brian Nemeth

    George,

    Man, my situation does not even compare with you! Thank God we’re tough SOB’s – the normal patient would have given up and died along time ago. At least we can count our blessings about our persistence and toughness. It keeps us all going.

    Thanks about the fish oil tip. I’ll start immediately. My doc says to take Folic Acid and Vitamin E daily to help with nerve transmission. It has helped my hands greatly; they go numb all the time!

    I also would like to thank you for replying to me. I have never even talked to anyone about football especially and ex- used jock. That’s what I call myself. Are you sure about that 58-year life span?? That’s scary. So what really kills us? The doctors or the drugs?!! HA HA!

    Thanks again
    Brian J. Nemeth
    Tight End
    1976 draft from South Carolina
    to San Francisco 49ers

  9. George Visger
    March 8th, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    George Visger

    Brian,

    I was in the same boat ’til I found Pear’s Blog. What Dave and Robert do here is unbelievable. As you can see above, Robert pulled up an article from FIVE YEARS AGO where Congress was supposed to hold the NFL accountable for our industry-caused injuries.

    I am forwarding this letter on to my contacts with the Senators and Congressional people we are dealing with.

    Hang tough
    George Visger

  10. George Visger
    March 8th, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    George Visger

    Dear DeMaurice Smith,

    On March 4, 2012, I sent you an email which was also posted here on Dave Pear’s blog, requesting information regarding some of the questions Brain Nemeth (above) also just asked, such as the average life expectancy of former NFL players etc.

    I wrote again on March 7 and am still anxiously awaiting the data from your office as I am doing everything in my power to facilitate your battle for our earned benefits. Dan Bunz and I were very disappointed you did not reply prior to our meeting yesterday with Congressman Tom McClintock.

    Please forward the data as quickly as you can as his office stated they had no idea so few NFL players receive their earned benefits. We have additional meetings with other politicians scheduled and will be recognized on the Senate Floor for our battle for all TBI survivors at the end of this month. The data will be very useful when we address the Senate during the Resolution.

    Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Senator Ted Gaines and Congressman Tom McClintock all requested that I forward the data as soon as I receive it, as they would like to review it prior to the Senate session.
    Please continue with your fight for our earned benefits. BUT PLEASE RESPOND TO OUR REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION. Families’ lives depend on your efforts.

    With Diminishing Admiration,
    George Visger
    SF 49ers
    80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    (and 3+ knee surgeries)
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

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