Report: Retired players say NFL is blocking them from concussion settlement money

The families of "debilitated former NFL players" believe the league "is obstructing their access" to a $1 billion concussion-related settlement between the NFL and tens of thousands of retired players, The New York Times' Ken Belson reported Monday.

The league agreed in 2013 to compensate more than 15,000 retired players or the families of deceased players who suffered the effects of cognitive injury, namely chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), playing football. But many of those same families, the Times said, accuse the NFL of intentionally complicating the process of receiving payouts from the settlement.

The NFL told retired players, particularly ones diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, they could "expect speedy payouts" from the settlement, Belson noted. Since the court approved the $1 billion agreement, though, families have obtained lawyers to counter "a succession of roadblocks" that have left "mentally infirm" ex-players without payouts they were promised.

The league, Belson added, insists that any paperwork requirements or other devices that may have complicated payouts are simply efforts "to deter potential fraud and do not represent foot-dragging or a lack of will to help the sick men." And yet, still, players' families and lawyers believe the NFL was focused on paying those "sick men as little as possible," as retired NFL player Andrew Stewart said in the Times report.

But the N.F.L. installed so many safeguards and trapdoors into the deal, lawyers for the players said, that in the eight months since the court-approved administrator of the settlement began accepting claims, many players have been forced to spend months scrounging for paperwork they did not think they had to keep, finding new doctors to confirm established diagnoses and lodging time-consuming appeals.

NFL representatives are expected to meet with the families' chief lawyer as well as the federal judge who oversaw the settlement on Monday, the Times reported, to discuss handling claims "more efficiently and more transparently."

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