The 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is going into its third year. How has it worked out for you and your families? How will some of the most recent disability rulings affect future cases? And just how did that Legacy Fund work out for each of you? John Hogan has been advocating for a total reform of the current NFL/NFLPA Disability Plan and has been successful in many of his cases representing retired NFL players in their Disability and Social Security Disability cases. In this session, John discusses some of the most recent cases and their impact on all retired players. We were hoping to have Jimmie Giles join John on stage but his health and upcoming surgeries kept him at home. John discusses some of the strange details of how the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan and its Board actually runs under the dominant hand of The Groom Law Group with absolutely no checks and balances nor oversight from a so-called Board. If you have never had to apply for disability benefits from the NFL, this discussion is an eye-opener. And if you’ve applied for benefits, most of this information will sound eerily familiar. (You can read all Panelist biographies by clickingHERE.) . YouTube Hints: You can enlarge the video to Full Screen mode simply by clicking on that Full Screen icon in the lower right hand corner of the video. You can also watch videos in HD (if available) by clicking that gear icon in the lower right and then selecting the highest resolution available. And each YouTube video can actually be paused or stopped at any point and you can also jump to any spot where you may have left earlier so there’s no need to watch through an entire video. .
. In one of the most public displays of just how far the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan and its overpaid NFL lawyers will go after a retired player during the process to access his earned disability benefits, US District Court Judge Ellen Hollander (District of Maryland) submitted her final 39-page ruling that very clearly details the many violations and fuzzy interpretations that the Plan and its lawyers have used over the years. Jimmie Giles (1977 – 1989: Oilers, Buccaneers, Lions, Eagles) had originally been awarded his Inactive Total & Permanent benefits (now called Inactive B) and the Plan and the NFL’s lawyers chose to aggressively deny his claim for Football Degenerative Total & Permanent benefits (now called Inactive A – got that?), leading to disability attorney John Hogan’s appeal on Jimmie’s behalf. The NFL’s law firm, Groom Law Group, publicly displayed some of the most egregious abuses of power and personal attacks on behalf of the Plan – all in their normal course of business-as-usual. At one point, they even tried to use the fact that Jimmie was “overweight” and it was pointed out to them that Jimmie’s teams had certainly never considered him overweight in his position as a tight end during his entire career! The Plan had been amended a few years ago to automatically accept an applicant’s Social Security designation as being Disabled, yet they continued to question and argue Jimmie’s actual “disability” going so far as to declare him still able to do “sedentary work” – as was also the case in Dave’s (and many others’) disability applications over the years. And their own Plan (the lawyers’) Questionnaire to their “neutral doctors” also continues to ask if a player was totally disabled as the Judge noted in her ruling. . It’s been a long wait for Jimmie and his family as they struggled to make ends meet during this drawn-out appeals process that dragged on through the summer after a lockout, a new CBA and everything else that went by over the past two years. But Judge Hollander appears to have taken a very thorough approach to address each of the arguments posed against Jimmie’s already well-documented case. (We uploaded a copy of this final ruling below as soon as it was available.) . One interesting observation: Jimmie Giles’ so-called Union, the NFLPA, has been nowhere to be seen at any time during Jimmie’s entire application process. No offers of assistance – legal or financial – during what has probably been the most difficult period of his life. In fact, the three alleged “retired players representatives” on the Disability Board had to have voted unanimously against Jimmie’s claim in lockstep with the three owners’ representatives in order for this case to drag out this far. Why has each member of the Board never been held accountable or sued for their ill-informed rulings? Would any AFL/CIO retiree in a REAL Union ever expect to be subjected to such an abuse of employees’ rights? . The ruling is posted on Scribd for easy viewing and to make it available for downloading and printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close): . Jimmie Giles vs Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan Final Ruling .
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. .
. EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday afternoon, NFLPA Disability Board Representative Sam McCullum wrote back to disability attorney John Hogan as part of our heated discussion on retired players’ Disability Benefits and their rights under ERISA law. (Click HERE to go back to that earlier post and be sure to read all the comments that are still coming in on that post.) We’re posting both of their letters here to continue an open review of how disability decisions are currently being made for retired players and how ERISA guidelines are not being applied. This is a must-read for any of you who have applied or plan on applying for your earned Disability Benefits. .
And before a few of you go off on us again for bringing the ghost of Gene Upshaw back into this fray, this is a direct reference to his original quote from an interview with The Washington Post’s Micheal Leahy in 2008. All too many retired players (even the late Johnny Unitas) lost their benefits because of this long-standing misinterpretation of the law. And that, my friends, is NOT bitterness – it’s reciting History. Those who do not follow or understand History are bound to make the same mistakes over and over again. .
Attorney John Hogan has been representing retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer Jimmie Giles to have his status changed from inactive Total & Permanent (T&P) Disability to more evident Football Degenerative T & P Disability. As with Dave’s case, Jimmie had already qualified for and was receiving Social Security Disability (also difficult to qualify for but nonetheless fair and rules-based). According to an earlier amendment to the Plan, Jimmie’s SS Disability qualified him at the very least for a new re-evaluation and reclassification with little fanfare. You can read Jimmie’s story in an earlier New York Daily News story from Wayne Coffeyby clicking HERE.
Just a quick update on two recent cases which clearly show that the NFL disability Plan (the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan) needs significant reform as they continue to abuse ERISA laws, due process and the retired players to whom they owe a fiduciary duty of care: