January 30, 2013
— Dwight Harrison played in the NFL for 10 years from 1971 to 1980 and
played for the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Colts and
Denver Broncos. According to Yahoo Sports and GridIronGreats, The former 11-year veteran with the Broncos, Bills, Colts, Raiders was living in a FEMA trailer with no running water. Harrison
suffers from head injuries and post-concussion syndrome — short-term
memory, inability to concentrate and focus, severe depression. GGAF has
provided funds for utilities, food and basic needs to Harrison. (Yahoo
Sports, Retired NFL Players and Dementia: Brain Trauma Hits Hard After
Football Career, December 4, 2011)
In 2007, Harrison filed a law suit* against the NFL Player Benefits
in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on July 5.
According to the complaint, Harrison received $1,440 a month as part of
his retirement package. On July 3, Harrison said he was notified by
phone that he would no longer receive benefits. The former football
player said the pension payments are his only source of income.
(Southeast Texas Record, Dwight Harrison sues NFL over pension, July 18,
*Case No. 1:07-cv-00473-MAC-KFG
Michael Rosenberg’s firsthand account and viewpoint on
SportsIllustrated.com says that “in 1994, the trustees again
acknowledged Harrison's "total and permanent disability," at age 45 ...
but they would not give him more money. Instead, they informed him that
his "disorder has its origin in an incident that occurred while you were
playing college football, not League football." They also said that his
depression was "of recent origin". *
A case was filed, by Harrison on February 1, 2013 against Bert
Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan in Texas Eastern District
Court. Harrison was 44 when this fight began. He is 65 now. Harrison is
fighting to recover the benefits the NFL allegedly cut off.
“The diagnosis of total and permanent disability is nearly a death
sentence for so many people, athletes in particular. They have to learn
to live their lives in an entirely different way and often suffer
chronic side effects physically, financially and emotionally.
Unfortunately, while gifted on the field, most of these people are
ill-equipped for the fight of their lives, when benefits they were
promised, are wrongfully delayed or denied,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros and expert on insurance law.
While Harrison's plight is a heartbreaker, it is not surprising.
Disability protection for athletes is a subject that should be first and
foremost in their minds and brought to their attention by their agents.
This type of disability insurance denial happens all too often and in
2014 there are tools available to help players have better protection
and prevent an unnecessary fight,” says Darras.
"I cannot stress enough that college players and pro athletes need to
take steps now, to protect their futures, should an injury affect them
for the rest of their lives," says Darras.
Darras offers this advice for college and professional athletes:
Get a private individual disability insurance policy as there are less legal restrictions and disability hurdles.
- Buying your own disability policy allows you to take your coverage with you between lock outs.
- Make sure your policy includes an own-occupation clause and covers your specific, high-paying (or potential) occupation.
- Budget now: the premiums on disability insurance policies for pro
athletes typically cost $8,000 to $10,000 per $1 million insured.
Although it’s not cheap, think of the costs you’d face if you were
unable to play for the rest of your life.
- If you are a college star, get specific loss-of-draft-slot
insurance along with career-ending coverage. This policy pays out if you
slip in the draft or suffer an injury that ends your career.
“As our focus transitions from the Super Bowl and college football to
the Olympics, basketball and baseball season, there is no better time
for players and athletes to get expert guidance. Whether they need help
in reviewing their policies, or need help with the fine print of a new
policy, a top agent or disability insurance lawyer who is familiar with
star athletes and their insurance needs can offer priceless insight,”
says Darras. “Getting the right help now, will protect everyone, down
Darras available for interviews. Contact Robin Nolan robin(at)mcdavidpr(dot)com or 800-880-9991.
*See: Case Number: 2013cv00074: Harrison v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle
NFL Player Retirement Plan V. Defendant: Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player
Retirement Plan, Plaintiff: Dwight Harrison Filed: February 1, 2013 filed in
Texas Eastern District Court, Beaumont Office, Jefferson County,
Presiding Judge: Marcia A. Crone Nature of Suit: Labor: E.R.I.S.A. Cause of Action: 29:1132 E.R.I.S.A.-Employee Benefits
*Gridiron Greats Assistance Foundation, GGAF, Player Stories, July 2013)
*Sports Illustrated, Dwight Harrison 'Permanently disabled', Harrison fighting for benefits NFL took away, January 29, 2014