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Ex-Rams lineman sues NFL over denied disability benefits

While the start of the National Football League season is always greeted with great enthusiasm by fans across the nation, it took on added significance for many people here in Southern California this year. That’s because it marked the inaugural season of the Los Angeles Rams franchise, which has returned to the city — and great fanfare — after 20-plus years in Saint Louis.

While long-time Rams fans are still learning the new names and faces on the current roster, there are likely still many past names with which they are more than familiar. As it turns out, one of the team’s former standout offensive lineman is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the NFL’s Player Disability and Neurocognitive Benefit Plan over denied disability benefits.

Darryl Ashmore, who played for the Rams from 1993 to 1996, and with several other clubs over the span of his career, filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Florida last month over the plan’s denial of “total and permanent disability benefits.”

Specifically, the complaint states that when Ashmore applied for benefits in October 2015 under the plan, which is designed to pay qualifying players up to $15,000 per month, he was subsequently scheduled for three prerequisite medical examinations, including one in Texas.

Upon learning of this, his attorney contacted the plan and requested that the three examinations be relocated to a location nearer to Ashmore’s Florida home, as air travel was difficult for him given his various physical and cognitive problems, including chronic pain, degenerative arthritis, herniated discs and early-onset dementia, to name only a few.

Thereafter, the appointments were rescheduled to take place in Atlanta the following month. Ashmore’s attorney, still concerned about the need for his client to travel this far, requested accommodations for the medical examinations that appear to have gone unfulfilled. Indeed, the plan rejected Ashmore’s disability claim later that same month for failure to attend the examinations.

The complaint goes on to outline how the plan, which is overseen by a three-member committee comprised of officials from both the NFL and NFLPA, later denied Ashmore’s appeal, and how all relevant documentation of correspondence between Ashmore’s attorney and plan representatives was entirely omitted from the administrative record.

More than anything, this case serves to demonstrate that no matter how much an insurer touts the benefits available under a particular disability policy, problems can — and do –arise when it comes time to collect. Indeed, a memo for the plan Ashmore is now suing boasts it “may provide the most generous disability benefits in the world.”

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Former Rams player sues after denial of NFL benefits for disability,” Nathan Fenno, October 13, 2016

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