The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Just who does receive the NFLPA’s $22M in healthcare funds each year?

Roger Goodell and Demaurice Smith with CBA in 2011
Roger Goodell and Demaurice Smith with CBA, 2011 (AP)

09.20.13

According to a recent piece, critical of the NFL concussion settlement, journalist Patrick Hruby discovered that the 2011 CBA already makes a substantial amount of healthcare money available to retired players each year at the discretion of the NFLPA. Under the language in the CBA, up-to $22 million of already funded money could be directed to former players with neurological issues.  Instead of as a replacement (as long as litigation continued) for the settlement money as Hruby suggests, the funds could be used as an excellent supplement to the current settlement, immediately available for suffering players while the pending details, approval and administration of the settlement terms are ironed out.

According to the CBA Section 5. Joint Contibution Amount:  “. . . The Joint Contribution Amount shall be $55 million for the 2012 League Year, of which $22 million shall be dedicated to healthcare or other benefits, funds, or programs for retired players (including the Former Player Life Improvement Plan as described in Article 64) as determined by the NFLP A.” The annul amount started at $22 million in 2012 and increases 5%  each year (about $1 million per year) for the life of the the 8 year CBA. So whom did the NFLPA distribute the $22 million to in 2012?

In his piece, Hruby said “the NFLPA had not responded in any detail” to his requests for information on the how those funds are being spent. The Former Player Life Improvement Plan, or FPLI (which names the NFL as the administrator)  allows for:

“Neurological Benefit. Eligible former players will receive facilitated access and comprehensive, coordinated evaluation at participating medical centers. Each facility will designate one of its neurologists or neurosurgeons as a point of contact to coordinate and oversee all aspects of an eligible former player’s evaluation.”

Not all former players are eligible to receive benefits from the FPLI, but it seems that a significant number of players could be receiving testing and/or treatment without endangering their participation within the structure of the concussion settlement.   Throughout the concussion litigation, the players union has been noticeably quiet, neither advocating the use of these funds for neurological issues or commenting on the litigation. Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported that the NFLPA has so far issued a one-sentence statement about the settlement.

 

“All of the plaintiffs involved are part of our player community, and we look forward to learning more about the settlement.” 

 

The NFLPA CBA money seems to have even fewer restrictions on it than the settlement money does as far as distribution to former players. From the language in the CBA, (and like the concussion settlement) it appears the money can be used for the benefit of any former player, not just vested retired players. The funds can also be used to treat players who are suffering from less than “severe” cognitive issues as the concussion settlement specifies. If the NFLPA can administer this “Joint Contribution Amount” adequately and use it to focus on neurological issues, it could make a terrific supplement to the settlement.

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