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Report: NFL denies millions of dollars in payouts after concussion settlement

Feb 1

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With Super Bowl LVIII just a week from Sunday, Feb. 4, the National Football League is in the spotlight for another reason. A Washington Post investigation accused the NFL of denying medical care and payouts to hundreds of players under the 2015 landmark concussion settlement, saving the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We found basically that this settlement has its own unique way to define dementia, and that is one big component that there are players out there — many players out there who are getting diagnosed with dementia — and they obviously have the symptoms of dementia, but they don’t meet the settlement standard,” Post reporter Will Hobson told PBS NewsHour. “So, they’re getting denied for money and medical care that they and their lawyers thought they were going to get.”

The 2015 settlement between the NFL and 5,000 retired players laid out monetary rewards for players diagnosed with neurological problems due to playing football. According to the Post, just 15% of 1,241 former players who filed dementia claims based on diagnoses from doctors were approved.

The Post reported that the settlement has a much stricter threshold than what doctors define as dementia. The NFL, however, said there has been rampant fraud, alleging many former players who have not been diagnosed with dementia have tried to get paid.

Noting that there may be truth to the alleged fraud, Hobson said there are still players deserving of a payout whose claims were rejected.

“As we documented, there are also a lot of guys out there who indisputably had dementia, went through this process, saw their claims get denied and then died and had CTE confirmed at autopsy,” Hobson said.

The Post also alleged that claims were treated differently based on a player’s race and added that cognitive test scores were race-normed, though, in 2021, the NFL said it would stop using race-norming to determine payouts.

“Which is basically the test scores were curved and adjusted a little bit based on a formula that assumes Black former players naturally perform worse on these cognitive tests than white former players,” Hobson explained.

Hobson added that the NFL stands firmly that the settlement’s definition of dementia does not require more impairment than the standard definition. However, doctors quoted within the investigation disagree. Doctors told the Post if they used the settlement’s “definition in regular care, they would routinely fail to diagnose dementia in ailing patients.”

The NFL disputed the Post’s investigation and said the amount of money already paid out proves the settlement process is fair. A lawyer for the NFL added that an independent law firm and a federal judge oversee the process.

So far, the NFL has paid out $1.2 billion to more than 1,600 players.

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[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

NEXT WEEK IS THE PINNACLE OF FOOTBALL SEASON. BUT THIS WEEK – A NEW REPORT IS SHINING AN UNFLATTERING LIGHT ON THE NFL. 

A WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATION ACCUSES THE NFL OF DENYING MEDICAL CARE AND PAYOUTS TO HUNDREDS OF PLAYERS UNDER THE LANDMARK CONCUSSION SETTLEMENT, SAVING THE LEAGUE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

WILL HOBSON – WASHINGTON POST: “WE FOUND BASICALLY THAT THIS SETTLEMENT HAS ITS OWN UNIQUE WAY TO DEFINE DEMENTIA, AND THAT IS ONE BIG COMPONENT THAT THERE ARE PLAYERS OUT THERE, MANY PLAYERS OUT THERE WHO ARE GETTING DIAGNOSED WITH DEMENTIA, AND THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE THE SYMPTOMS OF DEMENTIA, BUT THEY DON’T MEET THE SETTLEMENT STANDARD. SO, THEY’RE GETTING DENIED FOR MONEY AND MEDICAL CARE THAT THEY AND THEIR LAWYERS THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO GET.”

[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

THE 2015 SETTLEMENT BETWEEN THE NFL AND 5,000 RETIRED PLAYERS PROMISED PAYOUTS FROM THE LEAGUE TO PLAYERS DIAGNOSED WITH NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS FROM PLAYING FOOTBALL. 

ACCORDING TO THE POST, THE NFL APPROVED JUST 15% OF MORE THAN 1,200 FORMER PLAYERS WHO FILED DEMENTIA CLAIMS BASED ON MEDICAL DIAGNOSES.

THE POST SAYS THE SETTLEMENT HAS A MUCH STRICTER THRESHOLD FOR DEMENTIA. DOCTORS THEY INTERVIEWED SAID IF THEY USED THE NFL’S DEFINITION IN REGULAR PRACTICE, THEY’D BE SENDING AWAY PATIENTS SUFFERING FROM DEMENTIA WITHOUT A DIAGNOSIS.

THE NFL DISPUTES THE POST’S CONCLUSIONS – SAYING THERE HAS BEEN RAMPANT FRAUD SINCE THE SETTLEMENT. THEY CLAIM MANY FORMER PLAYERS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH DEMENTIA HAVE TRIED TO GET PAID.

WILL HOBSON – WASHINGTON POST: “AS WE DOCUMENTED, THERE ARE ALSO A LOT OF GUYS OUT THERE WHO INDISPUTABLY HAD DEMENTIA, WENT THROUGH THIS PROCESS, SAW THEIR CLAIMS GET DENIED, AND THEN DIED AND HAD CTE CONFIRMED AT AUTOPSY.”

[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

THE POST ALSO ALLEGES THE NFL TREATED CLAIMS DIFFERENTLY BASED ON A PLAYER’S RACE.

IN 2021, THE NFL SAID IT WOULD STOP WHAT’S CALLED RACE-NORMING TO DETERMINE PAYOUTS. 

WILL HOBSON – WASHINGTON POST: “WHICH IS BASICALLY THE TEST SCORES WERE CURVED AND ADJUSTED A LITTLE BIT BASED ON A FORMULA THAT ASSUMES BLACK FORMER PLAYERS NATURALLY PERFORM WORSE ON THESE COGNITIVE TESTS THAN WHITE FORMER PLAYERS.”

[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

POST REPORTER WILL HOBSON SAID DESPITE THEIR FINDINGS, THE NFL INSISTS THE SETTLEMENT’S DEFINITION FOR DEMENTIA DOES NOT REQUIRE MORE IMPAIRMENT THAN THE STANDARD DEFINITION. THOUGH DOCTORS QUOTED IN THE INVESTIGATION DISAGREE.

THE NFL SAYS THE PROCESS IS MONITORED BY AN INDEPENDENT LAW FIRM AND A FEDERAL JUDGE. THEY SAY THE AMOUNT OF MONEY ALREADY PAID OUT IS PROOF THE SETTLEMENT PROCESS IS FAIR.

SO FAR THE NFL HAS SPENT 1-POINT-2 BILLION DOLLARS ON MORE THAN 1600 PLAYERS.

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