The NFL will speed up the process of getting benefits to disabled former players by using the Social Security Administration's standards for defining disability.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Assn. Executive Director Gene Upshaw agreed that any retired player who qualified for Social Security disability benefits will be automatically approved for NFL disability, league spokesman Greg Aiello said in a telephone interview.
Players previously had to wait for as long as two years before receiving benefits, and league records show 284 former players last year received disability payments, totaling less than $20 million, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law scheduled a Tuesday hearing to examine whether former NFL players are receiving adequate financial assistance from the league's benefits program.
"The subcommittee has seen recent reports that the benefit plan offered to retired players may be stacked against players who need serious medical care," Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Lakewood, chairwoman of the subcommittee, said in a statement.
Potential witnesses include former Oakland Raiders guard Curt Marsh, who had a foot amputated after his playing career ended; Hall of Fame player and coach Mike Ditka; and Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson.
Ditka and Carson, along with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, have complained that the league's pension plan provides insufficient help to disabled former players.
They've also said Upshaw isn't doing enough to help retired players, charges that Upshaw denies.