Former NFL Player Tyrone Keys Files Lawsuit After Disability Benefits Ended And $831,000 Was Sought In Back Pay
Former NFL player Tyrone Keys is suing the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and the NFL Player Disability & Neurocognitive Benefit Plan based on benefits stopping in August 2017 and the defendants trying to claw back benefits previously paid to him. His Complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The defendants decided that Keys was never entitled to the type of benefits he had been receiving and was overpaid by $831,488.28 from January 1, 2004 through August 1, 2017. They determined that the debt would be paid by future disability benefit payments under a classification below what Keys had been receiving.
Tyrone Keys retired from the NFL with back, knees and shoulder injuries.
Keys retired in 1989 due to alleged injuries to his back, knees and shoulder. He was signed to the San Diego Chargers at the time. He had previously played for the Chargers, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After retiring, Keys submitted a disaibility claim to the defendants’ administrators. Then, he submitted a claim for Line of Duty benefits.
An orthopedic physician found that, as a result of playing in the NFL, Keys had a 50-59% loss of use of his back, 30-49% loss of use ofhis shoulder and 60-79% loss of use of both knees.
Keys was awarded the Line of Duty benefits, which expire after a maximum of 5 years. Keys then sought to receive Football Degenerative Total and Permanent (T&P) benefits, awarded to players who are considered to be substantially prevented from engaging in any occupation.
Keys went through multiple appeals with regard to his disability benefits.
Keys was denied T&P benefits in 1997. After being involved in a 2002 auto accident, which Keys admits aggravated his pre-existing NFL injuries, he applied for T&P benefits once again. This time, Keys was awarded Inactive T&P disability benefits, beginning in 2004. Keys appealed for more extensive T&P benefits and prevailed.
Then, in 2011, Keys’ T&P benefits were terminated. He appealed the decision, demonstrating that he was approved for Social Security disability benefits, which almost always qualifies a former player to also receive NFL-related disability benefits. Keys lost his appeal, alleging it received no evidence that Keys was approved for Social Security disability benefits.
Keys reapplied for T&P disability benefits in 2012 and was denied once again. The belief was that Keys was still working and thus not substantially prevented from engaging in an occupation. However, Keys was only involved in limited charity work, according to his Complaint. In late 2012, Keys was provided Inactive B T&P benefits (a classification added in the new NFL collective bargaining agreement).
Once again, Keys submitted an appeal, asking for Inactive A T&P benefits. That was denied. Keys sought reconsideration and was given same in 2013 subject to Keys allowing access to his Social Security disability files and federal tax returns.
In February 2015, all T&P benefits were terminated based on his alleged failure to provide the information. Once provided, Inactive A T&P benefits were reinstated, retroactive to 2013. But Keys wanted it retroactive to 2011, covering the years where he believed he was improperly not covered under the classification.
Tensions truly flare when Keys has his heightened disabilities cut off and is told to pay back money.
The dispute reached its height in August 2017, when the defendants held that Keys shouldn’t have been receiving Inactive A T&P benefits all along, terminating those benefits and seeking to claw back the roughly $830,000 paid to Keys under the higher classification. The main justification for termination was that Keys failed to disclose the 2002 car accident in his application.
Keys is now petitioning the court to rule that he didn’t provide false information and that the requirement to pay back approximately $830,000 is an abuse of discretion. Additionally, he wants the Inactive A T&P benefits applied for prior years and through the future. He says that the back benefits he should be entitled to comes out to $252,000.