N.F.L. Players Union Will Review Disability Benefits

Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter, the N.F.L.P.A. president elected in March, notified the union’s membership in his monthly newsletter that part of the C.B.A. would be reviewed by the union’s 11-member executive committee and leaders from among retired players. Tretter said that the group would re-examine changes to the Total and Permanent Disability benefit, “to fulfill our obligation to all of our members” and that the group has “a responsibility to review issues where we have fallen short.”

Some players on the union’s executive committee said that they were unaware of the full implications of the proposal of offset social security benefits, and that they discovered its impact only days before the deadline to vote on the agreement.

The benefit pays up to $138,000 a year. Under the new C.B.A., which the union approved by just 60 votes, 400 or so former players will see the amount they receive decline by the value of their Social Security disability benefits. These players, who doctors have said are unable to work, will lose $2,000 or more per month starting in January.

Tretter and other members of the executive committee will also reconsider another provision of the new labor agreement that allows only N.F.L. disability plan doctors to determine if a former player qualifies for benefits. For now, if a player is approved to receive Social Security disability benefits by an outside doctor, N.F.L. plan administrators will accept that diagnosis and release monthly benefits. This provision will be phased out under the agreement with owners.

Tretter’s letter did not specify when the review would happen, saying just that it would be “in the near future.” When the union’s executive committee members review the revisions, it is not clear what they will request, or whether the owners will return to the bargaining table. The league and the union are busy trying to determine how to start their season when many parts of the country are still under stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lorenzo Alexander, one of the executive committee members, said that he is concerned more players will be denied benefits in the future if only N.F.L. plan doctors are allowed to evaluate players.

“Guys go through the Social Security system, which is a lot more inclusive about what is considered disabled and also more unbiased,” he said. “Anything in the N.F.L. system, they have more control over who gets denied and approved.”

Alexander said he is hopeful the owners will consider revising the terms for disability benefits because they are paid from the players’ share of the league’s revenue, so “at the end of the day, it’s about how we allocate our own dollars.”

Tretter’s announcement comes several weeks after lawyers for the free-agent defensive back Eric Reid called for the C.B.A. to be invalidated and for an independent investigation into the language in the agreement regarding disability benefits that was changed after the players ratified the contract in mid-March. In a letter to the Players Association, Reid’s lawyers highlighted sections of the agreement that was changed after the players approved it.

Ben Meiselas, one of Reid’s lawyers, called the union’s review of the disability benefit cuts “a step in the right direction. But as of now, they’re just words.”

The union did not immediately return a call for comment.

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