The NFL's Disability Plan
The Washington Post has a story today about the disability benefit plan maintained by the National Football League Players Association and the League’s Management Council. Many former pro football players have serious disabilities but relatively few have been granted disability benefits by the League’s disability plan. This has been the cause of contention between players and management for many years. The NFL and the players' association have agreed that if a former player qualifies for social security disability payments, the player will also automatically qualify for disability benefits under the NFL plan.
The article states that Groom Law Group, a D.C. based firm that serves the ERISA needs of employers and insurers, received over $140,000 to write two amicus briefs in the Black & Decker v. Nord and Regula v. Delta Family-Care Disability Survivorship Plan cases which were decided by the Supreme Court in 2003. I know some of the folks at Groom and they have some good attorneys. But, as the article states, it is odd to see that, historically, the players’ association has worked with management to ensure that disability benefits are granted in only the most extreme circumstances. But it wouldn’t be the first time. In my experience, unions often take positions in ERISA cases that aren’t in the interest of the particular union member asserting a claim. The unions often have turf they are protecting that is inconsistent with the interests of the individual union members.