After the Congressional hearing in June, 2007 which focused on health and disability issues of retired NFL Players, the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA jointly announced that one of the improvements to the disability system which they were adopting was the acceptance of a favorable Social Security disability decision as proof that the player was totally and permanently disabled. Shortly thereafter, the NFLPA published a White Paper indicating that this change meant that where SSA found a player disabled, they would not have to be examined by a Plan physician. Commissioner Goodell testified to that fact in the subsequent Senatorial hearing in September, 2007
I am presently representing a retired player who was found to be disabled by Social Security back in 2004 – which was within the 15-year period necessary for a player to establish the higher paying “football degenerative” category of benefits. The Plan has found this player entitled to the lower paying Inactive benefits, and I filed an appeal with the Retirement Board submitting the player’s Social Security file and explaining their decision. Essentially, the player’s past work was at the light exertion level (generally requires the ability to stand and walk at least six hours in an eight hour day) and they found that he was limited to sedentary work because of his orthopedic impairments (knees and back). Because he was over 50 years old and his past work did not provide any transferable skills to sedentary work, he is deemed disabled under their rules.