A Quick Look at Changes to Claims Reports in the NFL Concussion Settlement

googly eyes

July 23, 2018
Sheilla Dingus

Following a closed hearing on November 13, 2017, which prompted a letter of concern to Judge Anita Brody, signed on short notice by nearly 200 class members, Judge Brody posted an audio file to the court’s ECF system in which she promised:

“The claims administrator will make public reports including the following, that I receive on a weekly basis.

The registration reports

The monetary award claim report

A report on appeals

A report on audit of claims

All future conferences addressing settlement administration will be public.”

Beginning on December 11, 2017, these reports were posted weekly on the settlement website as Judge Brody directed.

On the week of June 25, I thought I noticed something odd.  When I downloaded what I thought was the claims report, a short, two-page summary report was the result of the download.  I tweeted to the settlement’s Twitter account @NFL_Settlement which is operated by Seeger Weiss and was reminded of the three types of reports that are normally posted.  I went to the site again and found the Claims Report along with a Summary Report and a Registration report.  I found it odd that for the first time since December I clicked on the wrong link, but since all of the reports were accounted for, I attributed it to my own error.

Nothing unusual occurred over the next couple of weeks, but when I attempted to access a claims report on July 16, only the Summary Report was listed, so I took a screenshot and tweeted it to the settlement Twitter account asking when the claims report would be posted and received no response.

After nearly a week had passed, on Sunday, I rechecked the website to see if the Claims Report had been posted.  The Summary Report was the only report available, so again I inquired without receiving a response.

On Monday, I checked again. No change.  I decided to try the alerts link on the settlement website to see if I could find any information there and discovered this:

alert

I went back to the reports link and clicked, to find that as the notice says, some information has been added and other information omitted.  The biggest change appears to be in reporting of deductions from claims, previously entered as “Table 6” in previous claims reports.  This section which included a breakdown of  deductions from approved claims, consisting of  liens, offsets as designated in the settlement, derivative claimant deductions, and the 5% common benefit deduction has been omitted from the new Summary Report.

Tables 3-5 which provided information on Derivative Claimants in the previous Claims Reports have also been omitted from the revised Summary Report.

Table 7, Monetary Award Payments, in the Claims Reports have been moved to Section 11 in the new report.

Section 8 of the Summary Report is a useful addition.  It displays the current status of all claims and, as such, provides information on the audits that are taking place.

status of monetary award claims

Nineteen different statuses are indicated in the table.  From this we are able to ascertain that 324 monetary awards have been issued; 232 have been issued “final denial,” and 287 claims are in current audit investigations (line 9 + line 10), and another 274 claims are under some status of an adverse audit finding (lines 11 – 15).  The footnotes on this chart yield further useful (even if troubling) information, including,

  • The Program has issued notices to 1,281 incomplete claim packages, which is 72% of all Level 1.5 and Level 2 claims and 57% of all other claims.

  • The Program has audited 1,038, or 54%, of all claims, including 373 claims removed from audit and put back into the claims review process, 287 claims currently in Audit Investigation, 274 claims on Adverse Audit Reports with the Parties or Special Masters for Review or awaiting a response from those audited and 139 claims denied after audit.

On July 18, Judge Brody issued a notice stating her intent to defer a decision on appointing a special fraud investigator as requested by the NFL.  The text of her notice is below.

notice

It appears that unless a request is made by the Claims Administrator or Special Masters, she will continue to allow them to continue performing audits as they have been through this point.  Placing 54% of submitted claims in audit seems excessive, but even that is preferable to appointment of the investigator requested by the NFL, whom they wanted endowed with power of subpoena and the ability to file charges against anyone they considered to have committed fraud.  While I’m sure that some fraud exists, I continue to believe that much of the alleged fraud is a disagreement between players and their attorney with the NFL – and possibly the Claims Administrator and Co-Lead Class Counsel as to how sick one has to be in order to qualify for a monetary award, and how a claim may be presented and this does not constitute fraud.

Section 9 of the new Summary Report is the equivalent of Table 1 in prior Claims Reports and presents information regarding claims that are under appeal.

status of appeals

Section 10 corresponds with Table 2 in previous Claims Reports and addresses the reasons given for denied claims. Chart 6 from the old Claims Reports, which showed the ratio between represented and pro se class members as well as filing methods was eliminated in the updated report and is a feature I’d like to see return. Aside from that, the new report seems to be pretty similar and perhaps even an upgrade.

According to the July 16 report, a total of 499 notices of monetary award have been issued with the number of paid claims reported at 380.  The section on paid claims has shifted on the new report. While in previous Claims Reports this was reported directly underneath the total award notices issued for an easy at-a-glance comparison, but now “paid claims” is located at the bottom of Section 11, under Item 5.  Limited progress is seen in the number of approved Level 2 and 1.5 Neurocognitive Impairment, or dementia claims, at 173, however payments continue to lag with only 60 of these having been paid to date.  1,236 dementia claims have been filed which means that just under 14% of those claims have been approved and only 4% have actually been paid, leaving much room for improvement.  By comparison, however, since only 9 dementia claims were approved in the first year of the settlement, things at least appear to be heading in the right direction.

An updated report is due for publishing tomorrow. If I find more surprises, I’ll keep you posted.