In response to repeated complaints from retired players, the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association, according to the Associated Press, are updating their disability plan for retired players hoping that it will make it easier for them and for the disabled players to get their benefits more efficiently and quickly.
The plan includes a medical director to advise the claims committee; medical panels in metropolitan areas; specialists who can help players apply for benefits by phone; and other updated procedures, including a prescription drug card for all retired players vested in the pension plan. The plan and its implementation was confirmed by union spokesman Carl Francis. Ironically or not, the plan comes a day after the league and union announced that 14 hospitals nationwide had been designated to treat retired players who need joint replacements.
It also came – again, ironically or not – a day after Mike Ditka, easily the most outspoken critic of the union’s handling of retirees, announced that he would dissolve his Hall Of Fame Assistance Trust Fund; this follows a report that it had given only a small percentage of its money to former players in need. Ditka said that the balance of money, some $600,000, would be divided equally between two organizations; Misericordia, a residential facility for developmentally disabled youth and Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, another fund that assists former players in need.
I’m not going to go out on a limb and predict the NFL’s current plan as a success or a failure as that would be speculative in nature; the plan – on its own merits – after it gets its first initial caseload of players, that may be a good barometer as to the plan’s chances for success. I hope it succeeds as there’s no real plan in place right now.