Who Comes Up with These Surveys Anyway?

Jul 3, 2012

We’re all for great customer service and constructive feedback but if a survey’s not going to accomplish anything, why bother? Last week, Dave received this request to participate in a new survey from the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan Office in Baltimore:
Dear NFL Player,
In hopes of learning more about your experience with the Plan Office in Baltimore, we are conducting a brief survey. Your responses will help us determine areas the Plan Office in Baltimore has shown exceptional service as well as areas where there is room for improvement. We encourage you to click on the link below and provide candid feedback on the questions asked. The survey should only take 5 – 10 minutes to complete, and your responses will be greatly valued. The survey opens today, and will remain open for until the end of next week, closing Friday, July 6th at 5PM PST. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact our survey administrator (information provided below)
Survey Administrator: Matt Case
Email: matt.case@mercer.com
Phone: (312) 917 – 7038
Please click on the link below to access the survey:
The Baltimore Plan Office
Everyone should consider participating and be sure to include your comments at the end. Here’s what Dave posted in their comments box at the end (click to enlarge for easier reading):

To give you a preview of the other questions you’ll be asked, we’ve uploaded screen captures of the entire survey to Scribd; for viewing and to make it downloadable. You can also click the Fullscreen button in the lower right corner of the viewing screen to enlarge it for easier navigation – and just hit the ESC button key to close.:
Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Customer Service Survey
EDITOR’S NOTE: Disability Attorney John Hogan added his comments and observations below:
Several of my retired player clients and friends have sent me copies of the recent survey from the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan office in Baltimore. It states that they want to see where they are offering exceptional service, and/or areas where they need to improve. I have a few comments, having dealt with the Plan office a good number of times in my course of represent disabled retired players:
First, the results of an anonymous survey are probably not going to be very valid. Will dead former players from Chicago be able to stuff the ballot box? Do retired players from Florida have to provide government issued-ID to cast a ballot? (Those were political jokes – sorry.)
Actually, my experiences in dealing with the office personnel have always been quite positive. While I almost always have to leave a voicemail when I call, I generally have my calls returned promptly. I would also like to say that from what I can tell, the Plan office appears to be overwhelmed and understaffed in the past year or so as more and more retired players file disability claims. And then there is the Legacy Fund benefit – I don’t think the Plan office had any idea how much work and effort this would be to make individual determinations on each claim. I am aware of at least two retired players – and no doubt there are more – who have not yet received the Legacy Fund benefits they are entitled to.
While I have numerous issues with how the Plan adjudicates disability claims, I will not address that here, as it was not a topic of the survey.
What I would like to comment on – based upon my experience in dealing with hundreds of retired players over the past several years – is the total lack of reliable benefit information available to them. This appears to be a long-standing problem, going back more than 25 years – from players like Dave Pear being told that appealing his disability denial would be pointless; to guys like Joe DeLamielleure being encouraged to take his retirement pension early (age 45) because retired players’ life expectancy was only to age 55 (normal Plan retirement age.) As a result of this misinformation, Dave has been deprived of hundreds of thousands of disability benefits and Joe and many like him, have had to accept a pitiful, permanently reduced retirement pension.
A constant theme running through the past eight years I’ve been dealing with retired players is the appalling lack of information they had on their benefits. As most football fans probably assume (quite incorrectly) is that whenever a retired player had an issue, question or problem regarding the benefits he might be entitled to, he would turn to his Agent. Wrong. In all these years, I have only had one agent for a retired player (his former client) call me on behalf of someone he used to represent.
I was also operating under the mistaken assumption that a guy could turn to his union (the NFLPA) for help. (As a former member of the Laborers International Union, I know that those guys would always seek the advice, assistance or guidance from a Union official whenever they had any issues they needed help with – from legal issues to benefit issues.) Not so with the NFLPA. (BTW – I agree completely with the request to have them expelled from the AFL-CIO!) Perhaps they take care of some of “their guys” – as was the story when Gene Upshaw ran the PA. Despite the hopes of a big change of attitude toward retired players under De Smith, this hasn’t happened. In fact, I have a hard time imagining that any significant number of retired players seek such information, help or guidance from the PA. (Despite my best efforts to promote helpful changes to the NFL disability Plan over the past several years, Union officials have ignored and rebuffed these attempts – which is still rather stunning to me, as they are for the benefit of their members!)
Last, I have never heard of a retired player being able to get help or advice about his benefits from an NFL team or the League office. It might happen but I’m certainly not aware of it.
Rather, my experience in speaking with hundreds of retired players over the past several years is that they’re not properly informed about their benefits. I probably talk to at least one retired player per month who has a “significant disablement” from his time in the NFL and would surely qualify for the Line-of-Duty benefit but has just missed the application deadline. It appears to me that retired players learn more about their benefits from talking to other retired players than they do from the Plan office.
I know that the people in charge of NFL benefits will say that they spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to communicate benefit eligibility to retired players. I don’t dispute that – but I do dispute that this effort is as effective as it could or should be. In my own practice, I’ve experienced a fair number of retired players who – for one reason or another – did not follow through on the advice I gave them. There can be a lot of reasons for this. However, as I see the devastating effects of concussion on these guys, I have no doubt that this is a big factor.
The internet has surely been more effective in bringing retired players – and their families – up to speed on various benefits. Dave Pear’s Blog, Fourth and Goal, Jeff Nixon’s blog and Dignity After Football have undoubtedly brought more information and awareness to retired players and their families than the Plan Office, PA and NFL combined. However, volunteer advocates are a poor substitute for the full-time advocacy which retired players and their families need and deserve.
I truly thought the NFL Alumni Association moving to an advocacy role would be the answer. Wrong again.
At this point, I am still hopeful that with the help of litigation, retired players might be able to have their own, truly independent and well-funded Union to properly and fully represent their interests. And once and for all, have a place where they can obtain reliable help, information and advice.
John Hogan
Disability Attorney
Retired Football Player Advocate
NOTE: We’re also creating our own survey with a slightly different set of questions to find out more about your real experiences and interactions with the Plan Office. We hope to have as many of you participate as possible (and widows are WELCOME in our survey!) so that we can gather honest answers and feedback. Watch for it early next week after the Plan closes their survey.

13 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Henrietta Watson
    July 4th, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    Sid Watson


    Just a note to let you know that I filled out the survey. I know how my husband felt about the non-union. He felt it was nothing but a charity fundraiser (although the charities are worthy) and did nothing for retired players.

    Henrietta Watson
    widow Sid Watson (1932 – 2004)
    Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins
    1955 – 1958

  2. Janet & Michael C. McCoy
    July 4th, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    Mike C. McCoy

    John –

    You are so right. As a retired player’s wife, I have personally helped many retired players and their wives by providing advice on how to file for benefits and providing information to other retired players regarding benefits or options for additional assistance. We need a contact who understands our needs and who has answers.

    The plan says they follow ERISA rules, I beg to differ. We have been repeatedly told my husband cannot change his beneficiary after a life-qualifying event. Most plans allow for changes after marriage or children are born. Not the NFL. They have a lock and key on any changes.

    Thank you for all your updates and insight to these issues.

    Janet Brown-McCoy
    for Mike McCoy
    Green Bay Packers
    1976 – 1983

  3. Gordon Wright
    July 5th, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Gordon Wright - NY Jets

    Everyone in the Baltimore office should be fired and they should be held to the same rules that were thrust upon former retired players: No changes to their retirement plans once they are forced to retire.

    #1. Even the Government Social Security Plan allows for newborns of former NFL players!

    That way Doug Ell will have some competition and not the monopoly he currently runs! Other lawyers will have some work!

    Gordon Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

  4. Jon Hohman
    July 5th, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Old Broncos Logo

    The real tragedy about our pre-93 group is that most players back then were either intentionally cut by their 3rd year or became permanently injured.

    Jon Hohman
    Denver Broncos
    1965 – 1967

  5. Fred Hoaglin
    July 5th, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Fred Hoaglin


    I’m tired of all the whining by retired NFL Players who have made poor life decisions. What does one expect for playing in the NFL for a small portion of one’s working life? The NFL/NFLPA has been more than generous in their treatment of retirees! Example: I played from 1966 until 1977 earning 11 years of credit on the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan. I took my retirement ‘early’ at 58, in 2002. I am still married to my first wife and I chose to work for a living for the 25 years after my NFL retirement. During my playing career, I was paid $355,133.38 for salary/playoffs/Pro Bowl (1) or $32,284.85 per year. In 2002, I received $31,581.00 (11 Months) from the BB/PR Retirement Plan. I now receive $59,049.00 per year including the new Legacy Benefit and have received Total Benefits of $389,738.25 as of 12/31/2011, or $38,973.83 per year. That is only part of my retirement income because I chose to work from the ages of 33 – 58. What do they need to do? I know of no pension plan in the world that increases the benefits for all vested personnel even if they are already receiving benefits. The NFL is not a cradle-to-grave system, it should only supplement a person’s retirement while they work and save and invest for the rest of their lives in the workforce and then have sufficient funds on which to retire.

    We need to be thanking the Owners and the Current Players for what they have done to help us and we also need to do our part to help ourselves. We are truly blessed to enjoy the lives that we have!

    Fred Hoaglin
    Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts,
    Houston Oilers, Seattle Seahawks
    1966 – 1976

  6. Henrietta Watson
    July 5th, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Sid Watson

    Aren’t you wonderful? Maybe you could write a book and tell all the brained damaged, injured players where they can go for help to receive the medical care they need that they didn’t get? And when you’re kicking them while they’re down, be sure to tell them that their marriages didn’t last because after suffering from so many concussions, their erratic behavior should have been better managed so as not to drive their spouses away. With so many of you supermen out there, it’s a wonder you needed any teammates, I’m sure you could have done it on your own.

    No. I’m not in the whining category. My husband, Sid, left after 4 years even though Washington offered him a signing bonus if he would return. He had a successful career, retired with a 401K. I have a comfortable life style. We were married for 50 years. But I’ll still take any increase offered. My husband didn’t get any retirement until he was 67 and I think the amount was a whopping $50 for each year he played! He and his teammates gave cash – anonymously – to get this union off the ground so guys like YOU could benefit.

    Stop and read some of the stories that suffering former players and families are enduring. You may not care about anyone but your satisfied self but spare us all and keep your achievements to yourself because right now not too many players care that much about you.

    By the way, even Social Security gives increases! And if you are against increases did you turn yours down?

    Henrietta Watson
    widow Sid Watson (1932 – 2004)
    Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins
    1955 – 1958

  7. RobertinSeattle
    July 5th, 2012 at 5:22 pm #


    Thanks, Henrietta. I’m sure more comments will follow. Instead of saying too much, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s my Hoaglin/Brees picture:

    Fred Hoaglin/Drew Brees

  8. John Hogan
    July 5th, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    John Hogan


    Glad your NFL experience was positive – which I believe included an additional 20-plus years as an NFL assistant coach. Lots of other retired players would have liked the opportunity to coach in the NFL but many of them were too battered physically and mentally to handle it. 58 is not early retirement from the NFL. 45 is and if you have been following Dave’s Blog you know that many guys who took this early reduced pension didn’t do so because it was a poor choice but because they were poorly advised – often by their union – or simply had no other options left.

    Also, I have come to learn that many other “poor choices” are the result of a brain damaged by football. And I know many retired players, including Dave, who are still married to their first wife. As far as no other pension plans giving increased benefits to former employers, I can’t think of any other employer where the employee leaves after a few short years with severe mental and physical injuries which limit their ability to work in their post-playing days. Or if they do, they have an adequate disability system and life-time health benefits to help compensate them for these work-related problems.

    John Hogan
    Disability Attorney
    Retired Player Advocate

  9. Tessie Lee
    July 5th, 2012 at 7:32 pm #


    Thanks for telling it like it really is.

    My question for today: Why is there always a hater in every bunch?


    Tessie Lee

  10. Dave Pear
    July 5th, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Dave Pear

    Hi Fred –

    I found a Hoaglin Jr., George F. who received a check for $14,500 from the NFLPA/Players Inc. swindle. Is that you?

    Retired players sued the union for fraud and YOU received a check.

    If so, why don’t you give back the money because the union that you speak so highly of was sued for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and were found guilty? It was proven that they cheated ALL of us out of video game royalties. And YOU collected a big check! And now we’re about to prove that the League and its owners lied to us about our concussions during the time we all played and you sound like we got what we deserved?

    Do you think that’s right? You should be ashamed of yourself for pretending to be someone you are not.

    Also, why not admit that in your fabulously successful “post-career,” you actually coached in the NFL for 20 years? Fred, a half-truth is still a lie. You might want to be honest with yourself and tell the whole story. Is THAT why you’re getting such a generous pension check? Because I KNOW that most players from your period certainly did NOT get pensions as big you’re collecting.

    Here is your NFL coaching history from Wikipedia:

    Hoaglin was an assistant coach for the Detroit Lions (1978–1984), New York Giants (1985–1992), New England Patriots (1993–1996), and Jacksonville Jaguars (1997–2000). He was an assistant coach for the Giants during their Super Bowl XXV championship season.

    The Internet has made it easy for anyone who can turn on a computer to do research on anyone. Did you really think that your track record is not public information?

    Dave Pear

  11. Marilyn Bishop
    July 6th, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    Bill Bishop

    I am a widow. My husband played 1952-1962. Have the widows received any benefits from the Legacy Fund at all?

    Marilyn Bishop
    widow Bill Bishop (1931 – 1998)
    Chicago Bears 1952 – 1961
    Minnesota Vikings 1962

  12. Tom Beer
    July 9th, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Tom Beer


    I believe this is the first time 2 petite, silver-sneakered females have literally pancaked a macho, 6′-3″, 260-lb former 11-year veteran and Pro Bowl participant. Congratulations, ladies! In the words of the late Howard Cosell: You told it like it is!

    I wonder what the families of John Mackey, Dave Duerson, Mike Webster, George Webster, Andre Waters and Ray Easterling think of Fred Hoaglin’s comments.

    Tom Beer
    Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
    1967 – 1973

  13. Shaughn Niland
    July 16th, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    John Niland

    Mr. George F. Hoaglin Jr. –

    Being a coach and being hit in the head every time the ball is snapped are two totally different things, sir. My husband of 20 years, John Niland got his brains bashed in plenty for the NFL, thank you very much.

    He is broken and battered. Cannot lift his arms up to comb his hair because he has NO SHOULDERS. Literally, the ball and socket joints were removed for replacement but the replacement after 2 rounds of staph infection had to be removed. That little hospital-go-round nearly killed him. He has two fake knees, arthritis in the spine and the list goes on. John will be 70 years old in February and still goes to work every single day!

    Not to mention the hundreds of doctor appointments he and I shuttle to on an annual basis to keep him moving so we can put our daughters through college.

    Please do not speak poorly about these men until you have walked a mile in their shoes. You have no idea the daily pain and suffering it takes to be an ex-athlete.

    Shaughn Niland
    Wife of Dallas Cowboy John Niland
    Dallas TX
    Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles
    1966 – 1976