We wrapped Friday up with a discussion on Workers Compensation. Workmans Comp may be in for some serious changes shortly with Bill AB 1309 coming up for a vote in the California State capitol later this year. This bill will block professional athletes from filing Workers Compensation claims in the State of California and each of us needs to let your local representatives know that you disapprove of this bill. Many who have been navigating the system for a few years with their applications have already found their pending cases suspended while awaiting the vote. Workers Comp attorney Ron Mix (Chargers & Raiders 1960 – 1971) and George Visger (49ers 1980 – 1981) have been outspoken advocates lobbying against this Bill in Sacramento and discuss the details of what the legislators are trying to do with one more benefit you were actually paying for out of your paychecks. (And in case there of some of you who are unaware, George has already gotten the short end of the stick from the NFL: Even though he’s a pre-’93 player with a Super Bowl ring (49ers in Super Bowl XVI), George doesn’t qualify for any disability benefits from the NFL. Why? Because he didn’t play four full seasons to qualify under the NFL’s Plan rules! . Don’t think these politicians are only going to target professional athletes – who do you think they’ll target next? Long distance truck drivers? Farm workers? And just how much does the NFL and its insurers think they’ll be saving by quietly supporting this bill? This bill will affect everyone. (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. .
. Thus spoke Nolan Harrison III in another one of his “Former Players Newsletters” about meetings and conferences earlier this week in Sacramento about a newly proposed State Bill A.B. 1309. In case you hadn’t heard, Bill 1309“would exempt minor and major league professional athletes from filing workers comp claims in California if their team is based outside of the state, according to the California Legislature website. Currently, California’s “cumulative trauma” provision in its workers comp law allows players to make a claim in California if they have played at least one game in the state.” . “The legislation would apply to professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, or soccer players who play temporarily in California.” . This summary was from BusinessInsurance.com. . We’re wondering what planet Nolan Harrison III was writing from. A contingent of retired players was definitely present on Monday, including Conrad Dobler, Ron Mix, Mel Owens and George Visger among others. In fact, here’s a direct report from George that we received that evening: . Mel Owens contacted me when a bunch of the players met for dinner the night before. Dobler, Mix, Ickey Woods and several others were in attendance. The next morning, 25 – 30 of us met at the attorney/lobbyists, broke into 5 groups and each team met face-to-face with several Senators, Congress folks and various other legislators at the Capitol. . Then we had a sitdown lunch with all. I sat with Senator Perez who was shocked to hear what was going on. De came striding into the room like a politician. Fake handshakes and “Hi, De Smith” as he went around the room. Shook my hand and his face dropped when I squeezed his and said ‘George Visger!’ Then he started babbling about how I’m doing, etc. Conrad and I caught him in the hall a bit later and ripped him til he slithered away. . All in all, it was a GREAT meeting with all. . George . And disability attorney John Hogan had a few words to add: .
April 24, 2013 . An Open Response to Nolan Harrison’s Letter to Stop California Workers Comp Reform . Nolan, . I can’t remember when I have read a more hypocritical or disingenuous piece about retired NFL players. . In your open letter to retired players, you attempted to castigate retired players for not showing up in Sacramento, California to lobby against the Bill pending in that state which might stop or limit retired players from being able to file a worker’s comp claim there. First, as a full time employee of the NFLPA, I assume that your expenses were paid by the PA to travel from the east coast to the west. I know you are a big guy and I have a difficult time imagining you squeezing into a coach airplane seat for a cross-country trek. Are you so out of touch with the real world of pre-’93 retired players that you do not realize few can afford to make that trip? Apart from the unaffordable cost, many of these men are in too much pain to spend the better part of a day in an airplane (or two) even if they had a first class seat. . Second, while I’m delighted that so many guys have been able to obtain benefits through the unique California Workman’s Comp loophole which allows them to file decades after they retired from the NFL, surely you must appreciate the significant administrative costs being borne by the State of California in the adjudication of these claims. (i.e. – It isn’t just the teams and their insurance carriers bearing the costs of adjudicating these claims.) As far as I know, California, like many other states (and unlike the NFL) is in financial crisis. . As you know, the CBA requires that all teams must provide workers’ compensation benefits; and in states where WC claims are barred for professional athletes, they must effectively be self-insured to handle these claims. Unlike many of us “bloggers” and “so-called former player organization leaders” – and despite our best efforts, including major litigation in the Eller case, we do not have a seat at the table in bargaining for retired players’ rights and benefits. In that regard, we are at the whims and mercy of the PA. That being the case, why aren’t you, DeMaurice Smith, Cornelius Bennett, et al lobbying for every state which is home to a professional sports franchise to have a liberal worker’s comp benefit like California’s? . Worker’s Compensation is a creature of state law and each state has various criteria. In general, a worker must file an injury claim while still employed, or very shortly thereafter. Again, I am delighted that many of my friends have been able to obtain money and medical benefits from California, but why should retired football players be treated differently (under state law) than a guy who digs ditches? Or someone who works in a steel mill? Anyone who performs arduous physical labor which takes a toll on their body as they get older? No state should treat retired NFL players differently than other workers who toil in their state and suffer injury. But the NFL should – and it should be up to the PA to make sure that they do! . As you know and as I have learned, the manifestation of injuries suffered during an NFL career – including the sequelae of concussions – often takes place many years after playing days are over. The worker’s compensation systems of the various states are not geared to handle such latent injuries and untimely claims. The disability benefits offered under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan (also a creature of the CBA) contemplate the fact that injuries – or at least total disability – can take up to 15 years after retirement to manifest. That being the case, what has the PA done to advocate a better disability system which would include more generous and longer line of duty benefits? (That is, for guys who have impairment for injury but might still be working; and/or not totally disabled.) . Your letter mentions that one of the most important aspects of workers’ comp benefits is lifetime medical benefits. That is true; and they are invaluable. However, the benefits are only for the particular injured body part, not for unrelated or general medical issues. . If the PA really wanted to show leadership, they would convince today’s players that having lifetime medical benefits is much more valuable in the long run than having a present day multimillion dollar contract. (Oh, you would have to convince Agents like Tom Condon that they would get less money for actually having the best interest of their clients at heart – good luck with that!) If the PA was really concerned about retired players well-being, they would be fighting incessantly for lifetime medical benefits for retired players. They paid their dues. They made the game what it is today. The money is there. . Retired players shouldn’t have to count on a unique loophole in California’s laws to get the benefits they deserve. You should know that. . While I do not handle worker’s compensation claims and am not a member of the California Bar, it would seem to be unconstitutional to extinguish claims which have already been filed – should this bill pass. . Sincerely, John V. Hogan Disability Attorney Retired NFL Player Advocate Member of Fourth and Goal Proud contributor to Dave Pear’s Blog Sponsor, Buffalo Bills Alumni Association . . . . . And yes – we’ll be covering this topic in detail at our upcoming IFV Conference in Las Vegas May 3 – 5. We’ll also be covering equally important areas of interest to retired football players including the concussion lawsuits and both sides will be presenting their opposing points of view in the NFL Films lawsuit. Not engaged? Maybe Nolan Harrison III might want to spend less of HIS time and YOUR money on golf tournaments and actually start listening to retired players (after he stops talking about himself, of course!). .
We’re bringing you a two-part broadcast in this post from our Independent Football Veterans Conference this past April in Las Vegas at the South Point. Certainly, one of the most important issues that affects many retirees is Workers Compensation. In recent years, a lot more cases have been ending with better outcomes for retired players. . Our second panel featured a discussion on some of the latest information and studies on Workers Compensation. Retired Hall-of-Famer and California Workers Comp attorney Ron Mix kicks off with a great overview of how Workers Comp applies to retired football players and some of the actions the NFL has taken to stem applications. Attorney Bryan Round talks about his representation on behalf of football players and working with the local NFLPA Workers’ Comp Panel in Kansas City. In Part 2, retired player George Visger shares his personal, long – and ongoing – battle over the years with Workers Comp. Dave Pear moderates. .
Second Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference
At last, we’re finally ready to announce our Second Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference! A lot of you have been calling and writing about our Conference and we thank everyone for their patience. . We’ll be meeting once again in Las Vegas at the South Point Resort & Casino April 20 – 22, 2012.This year, we’ll be using a panel-style approach to cover a wide range of important topics ranging from the most recent information on lawsuits, your benefits, as well as more of the latest information on brain health and concussions. Other hot topics open for discussion will include The Legacy Fund, widows’ benefits (or the lack thereof), severance pay, Workers Compensation and Retirees’ Rights among other hot topics! We also have some social events planned for Friday and Saturday evening that will allow our attendees to catch up on their playing days with their teammates. We already have a dinner sponsored for our attendees scheduled for Saturday evening. continue reading »
. Larry Kaminski has been keeping us updated on his battle against the Denver Broncos filed in California under their Workers Compensation laws. The Broncos current ownership is trying to have their case heard and dismissed in Federal Court based on their claim that when they bought the team, they only acquired the assets and not the liabilities (yes, just when you don’t think it can get any dumber).Read the earlier post – clickHERE. . Here’s a short update from Larry for those of you also going through Workers Compensation cases or considering that as an option: .
Fellow Independent Retired Players: .continue reading »
EDITOR’S NOTE:George Visger caught up with me on the phone this morning just before arriving at a job site. George is back at work trying hard to help his family recover from losing their home after suffering another near-fatal brain shunt failure last October. George is one of the most remarkably intelligent and resilient guys I’ve ever met and his tenacity comes through in everything he does. I often talk to him about what might have happened with his life had he never played professional football and sustained his life-altering brain damage. He starts off with an answer to John Hogan’s earlier post (click HERE to read John Hogan’s comment). .
From TheUnion.com: George Visger, a Grass Valley resident, shows his 1981 San Francisco 49ers team photo and Super Bowl ring. Visger has undergone nine brain surgeries since he stepped off the football field for the final time.
Attorney Carl Lopez graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1975 and is a member of the Washington State Bar and President of Lopez & Fantel, a Seattle law firm. He has been named multiple times to Law and Politics Magazine’s list of Washington Super Lawyers. He’s also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates and Multimillion Dollar Advocates. Selected for “The Best Lawyers in America.” Carl is a certified Contract Advisor, with his first NFL contract negotiation in 1978; among players represented are Jack Thompson and more recently, Robbie Tobeck. . On very short notice, Carl managed to fly in just for the day from Seattle and gives an overview on the current CBA and the Union’s decertification with an emphasis on how it will affect retired players directly. Carl also reveals some fascinating anecdotes from his many years of dealing with the NFLPA and the NFL while representing many players. . (Our videos are hosted on Vimeo in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) .
George Visger, 52, earned the ultimate prize in professional football: a championship with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI in 1982. The former defensive tackle also bagged an Orange Bowl victory while playing with the University of Colorado. .
But now he’s paying the ultimate price for all those years on the gridiron. After thousands of on-field hits to his head, hydrocephalus, and multiple brain surgeries, he is struggling with memory problems. And he receives absolutely NO benefits whatsoever – pension or disability – from the NFL in spite of his Super Bowl ring because he doesn’t meet their arbitrary 3-year vesting rule! .
George is currently an environmental consultant in California. .
Dan Bunz is a former American Football linebacker who played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions in an eight-year career that lasted from 1978 to 1985 in the National Football League. .
As a linebacker for the 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, he made one of the most famous defensive tackles ever witnessed. On a critical 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard line, Anderson passed to Charles Alexander in the right flat, but Bunz came up fast, grabbed the receiver around the waist, and hurled him backward before he could break the plane of the goal line. “The Stop” is regarded as “The Best Thing Witnessed On TV Ever.” He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XIX winning teams. .
Dan currently teaches Physical Education at Sutter Middle School in Sacramento. He also teaches people of all ages in being healthy and fit. .
Here are George and Dan telling the audience about the reality of their lives after football with an emphasis on the long-term effects of concussions and the failed disability process and system that the NFL and the NFLPA continue to impose on its retired employees. .
Ron Mix played right tackle and guard for the American Football League’s Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1960–1969) and the NFL Oakland Raiders (1971& 1972). Because he had a Juris Doctor in Law degree, Mix was nicknamed “The Intellectual Assassin” for his physical play. Mix was called for a mere two holding penalties in ten years. Ron was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 along with Dick Butkus and Johnny Unitas. .
After football, Ron transitioned into law. He currently specializes in Workers’ Compensation cases for professional athletes in many sports arenas and provided a Workers Compensation 101 overview for our retired players. . (Our videos are hosted on Vimeo in HD and you can watch them full screen by clicking on the Expand button in the lower right corner of the video window.) .
So this was filed last Friday by the NFLPA: . (We’ve uploaded the legal documents to Scribd for easier viewing and to make it downloadable. You can click the link to go over to Scribd’s site where you can enlarge it for easier navigation (hit the ESC key to close). You can also click the DOWNLOAD button to save a PDF copy for printing and reading later) . NFLPA Workers Compensation Filing 3-25-11 .
And then Judge Crotty ruled on it Monday, March 28th with a very short and clear order. Just what part of ‘You-can’t-make-your-employees-pay-for-YOUR-Workers-Comp’ does the NFL not understand?
Dave - . I read that earlier post with the article on Fred McNeil (click HERE) and wanted to thank you and Robert once again for the great tireless job you both do on educating everyone about the real world of professional football. . We’ve discussed this in the past, and after reading more and more posts on your blog from all the players suffering with early symptoms of CTE (short term memory issues, poor judgment, anger management issues, uncontrollable emotions), I would like to reach out to all and compile a database of contacts. I know if we put our collective minds together (or whatever pieces we have that still function), we can share coping mechanisms each of us has learned to live by. I know I have my bag of tricks and would like to share them with everyone. . I hope Fred McNeil (and others) have looked into some of these fairly simple, non-medicinal rehab/recovery processes; these are a few of the things that get me through each day: .
Look into Workers Compensation. California has been allowing claims to be filed if you were injured while playing in the state, even if it’s not your team’s home state. I successfully sued the 49ers for Workers Comp and won in 1986. Since then, I even used Vocational Rehab to return to school to complete my biology degree (1986 – 1990). They will fight you tooth-and-nail over every penny but be relentless. This isn’t a handout. You paid into Workers Comp and earned every penny!
Sleep apnea exam. Ask your wives or significant others if you show symptoms of very loud snoring and long “pauses” in breathing. Inadequate sleep and loss of oxygen when you skip breathing can cause inflammation of neurons and interfere with everyday reasoning and functioning.
If you drink: QUIT. I discovered I was having brain seizures from alcohol several months after my third brain surgery and quit in 1982. I had been arrested 3X in the 8 prior months after my first surgery! A couple beers may seem OK, but can cause short circuits in the brain’s electrical system.
Look into Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT). I have had great results with my first 80 treatments. I am beginning to suspect my latest deterioration is associated with my last Shunt malfunction a few weeks ago and will be tested for petit mal seizures. Prior to the malfunction and subsequently stopping the hyperbarics, I was doing better than I have for decades.
Omega-3 fish oil. The brain is mainly made of EPA and DHA which makes up Omega-3 fish oils. While the jury may still out on whether the body uses these to repair damaged brain tissue, even if Omega 3′s are not necessarily used to repair neurological tissues, they’re great for reducing cholesterol. We all know what our diets were like to maintain our weights.
Work simple memory games. Even kids’ games. It’s been proven that you can “exercise your brain” and grow new neurons into areas of the brain which are not damaged. Humans use less than 10% of their brains. Get those brain cells currently sitting on the sidelines into the game!
Change your routines. If you always brush your teeth with your right hand, start using your left. Shake hands with the opposite hand. Changes out of the ordinary force you to concentrate on simple tasks, which in turn causes your brain to construct new neurons into areas of the brain which aren’t being used.
Stay positive. It’s been scientifically proven that if you think you’ll get better, you’ll function better. Something good always comes out of everything and we’re being tested for a reason.
Get mad. It’s time we quit accepting the fact we are used, discarded pieces of meat when the NFL is done with us and it’s time to kick the owners right in the teeth to get their attention. That means hitting them where it hurts – in the pocket book. And to do that, we need our stories out there to get public support. We all need to be forgiving but anger is not a bad thing if used constructively. Let’s use it to motivate ourselves to be proactive.
Don’t be shy. Get your stories out there. In the last year or so since I discovered Dave’s Blog, I have reached out to media and sent in comments on any articles related to football injuries, traumatic brain injuries etc. every chance I get. We need to let the public know what’s going on. Without public support, we’re just a few thousand “millionaire crybabies” in the public’s eyes. Remember: It’s the public who buys the tickets, pays for cable and supports the greedy owners. What we have done up to now hasn’t worked.
Keep plugged into Dave Pear’s Blog. Reach out to as many other discarded NFL players, college players, coaches etc. There’s strength in numbers and a wealth of information to share here. Just knowing that others are dealing with the same issues I’ve had for years has been huge for me. We were all indoctrinated into the mindset that real men/players don’t bitch about their problems. Everyone has a cross to bear. They’re much easier to carry when some of your brothers hoist up a corner.
I’ve just returned from California where I filed my Workers Comp complaint against the Denver Broncos. Needless to say, they’re quickly filing to fight my claims. It was interesting that the NFL Management Council – I had no idea they had any say in making these decisions – just sent me a note saying I’m too old! The statue of limitations has run out. No help there.
NPR’s Tell Me More with host, Michel Martin, interviewed Dr. Eleanor Perfetto and Brent Boyd this morning. Dr. Perfetto recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of her husband, Ralph Wentzel, who played lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers from 1966 – 1973; her lawsuit is the first workers’ compensation claim for dementia resulting from brain injuries incurred while playing football. Ralph Wentzel is now living in an assisted living facility with severe dementia. The NFL’s Plan 88 is covering his assisted living costs ($88,000 a year). Brent Boyd was an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings and was diagnosed with early onset dementia 4 years ago. (Brent’s website is HERE.)