Former NFL player Charles Dimry is in a bad way, and although the NFL is supposed to help disabled players after their playing days are over, they apparently haven't been holding up their end of the bargain.
The former cornerback, who playeed twelve seasons in the NFL, is suing the league’s retirement plan saying it repeatedly denied his requests for increased disability despite ample evidence of his inability to work due to neck injuries suffered while playing.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court by Dimry against the Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and the NFL Supplemental Disability Plan. The lawsuit seeks recovery of unpaid benefits, copies of documents the plan would not hand over to him, as well as equitable relief.
According to his lawsuit, Dimry suffered two major neck injuries while playing, first in 1997 and then in 1999. In 2000 he underwent his first cervical fusion surgery.
In 2008, he applied for line-of-duty disability benefits, which are awarded for “substantial disablement arising out of NFL football activities.” His initial request for those benefits was approved by the NFL.
However, Dimry “began to experience progressively worse back pain and numbness of the left arm, forearm, and fingers” as well as knee pain, the lawsuit says. Dimry was “unable to stand, sit for extended periods, or lift.” The spreading pain forced him to stop working as training director at Strategic Sports Venture, even after yet another surgery.
In 2011, Dimry applied for Total and Permanent benefits, or T&P benefits. T&P is a separate payment for when a player has become “substantially prevented from or substantially unable to engage in any occupation or employment for remuneration or profit.” This application was denied, along with his appeal.
According to the lawsuit, Dimry applied for T&P again in 2014 and submitted “additional and overwhelming evidence establishing his T&P disability including supportive medical reports from no less than six doctors and a functional capacity report.”
A report from a retirement plan physician caused him to be denied once again.
Instead the plan scheduled a “neutral physical medical examination” in San Francisco with a plan physician, Dr. James Chen.
According to the lawsuit:
Pursuant to a uniform practice employed in all NFL disability claims, the Plan did not provide Dr. Chen with a definition of T&P disability, nor did it provide relevant vocational information. Dr. Chen, like all other Plan physicians, has no vocational training. In spite of these material omissions, the Plan uniformly defers to its “neutral” physicians rather than exercising its own discretion as required by the Plan’s written terms and without regard to the evaluations, opinions and conclusions of Plaintiff’s treating physicians, all of whom fully support Plaintiff’s disability.
With no relative or vocational information or training, Dr. Chen improperly provided his opinion that Plaintiff “is not totally disabled ... he could do desk or sedentary work.” The Plan adopted Dr. Chen’s untrained opinion wholesale without exercising any discretion at all, and in wholesale disregard of the evaluations, opinions and conclusions of Plaintiff’s treating physicians.
The Plan’s actions are contrary to the written terms of the Plan, and its conclusions have no reliable evidentiary support. In affirming its prior denial of benefits, the Plan ignored the definition of T&P disability. The Plan’s actions are contrary to the reports and assessments of the doctors who have evaluated and treated Plaintiff. The Plan’s determination denied Plaintiff due process of law.
His denial was upheld in 2015.
He will now attempt to recoup the benefits he was due through a lawsuit.
This could be a lengthy process for a man who desperately needs the benefits he feels he is due from the NFL.