NFL and Union Agree to Upgraded Disability Policy

In an attempt to eliminate some of the red tape in the NFL’s long and arduous disability application process, commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL players association chief Gene Upshaw have agreed to include the Social Security Administration’s standards for disability in the league’s own disability process, Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.

According to the upgraded policy, any retired player who qualified for Social Security disability benefits would automatically be approved for NFL disability without having to go through an arduous application process that often takes 2 years.  “We’re looking at ways in which people who need help can get help faster,” Goodell told the Daily News.  “You have to have some standards.  You have to have some kind of process to make sure you’re being responsible.  “On the other hand, all of us want to find the easiest and most efficient way to get that help to players.  If somebody is disabled [enough to qualify] for Social Security [disability], they should be disabled under our guidelines.  We’ve agreed to do that. And we’re looking at other ways [to speed up the process] as well.”

By definition, The Social Security Administration considers disability as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”  According to league figures, only 284 former players received disability payments last year, totaling less than $20 million.  That low figure, along with the publicity that has been given to the issue in recent months, prompted the politicians to get involved. The House Judiciary Committee is conducting an “oversight” hearing on June 26, which will deal with the league’s questionable record for approving disability claims by former players.  While a number of retired players are expected to testify at the hearing, neither Goodell nor Upshaw will be there.

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