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Why did the NFL deny an 11-year veteran player’s disability?

Darryl Ashmore

By Sheilla Dingus

October 13, 2016

Darryl Ashmore, a former offensive lineman in the NFL has filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida in hopes of claiming disability benefits the NFL denied him.  Ashmore, played for the Rams, Raiders, and Redskins for eleven seasons between 1992 and 2002 and was a commanding presence on the field at 6’7’’ and 310 pounds.  Now at age 46 he suffers early onset dementia as well as frequent and severe migraines, encephalopathy, memory loss, depression, anxiety, impaired concentration, nausea, hypertension, chronic pain in his neck, knees, back, wrist, and shoulders, herniated discs, and degenerative arthritis.  According to an article in the Daily Business Review, Darryl Ashmore’s medical records indicate “Ashmore can no longer operate a vehicle, loses concentration mid-sentence and has short-term memory loss. An affidavit from his wife, Michelle, reports a decade-long decline marked by outbursts, forgetfulness and fatigue.”
In response to his application for disability benefits, the NFL ordered three medical evaluations, one in San Antonio, TX; one in Palm Beach, FL; and one in Tampa, FL. These examinations would have entailed over 1,400 miles of travel for Ashmore, who responded that he had no objection to submitting to the evaluations but required examinations closer to his home due to the severity of his medical conditions.
According to the lawsuit, Ashmore’s attorney responded to the NFL four days after he received notice of the evaluations, but the NFL, while agreeing to reschedule, refused to accommodate his request.  The lawsuit details what happened next:

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Afterward the NFL responded that all evaluations would be moved to Atlanta, but this again presented a challenge for Ashmore, who nevertheless agreed to go if certain accommodations could be provided.  Edward Dabdoub, Ashmore’s attorney, on the same day notice had been given, submitted a letter of request to the NFL and asked that it be presented to the Disability Claims Committee which includes members of the league and players association.  The next day he followed up with the letter to the NFL and was assured, everything would be presented to the committee.
Nothing further took place until on November 3, the day of the first scheduled evaluation in Atlanta, the NFL denied Darryl Ashmore’s disability claim:

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Following the denial upon written request, the NFL provided a copy of the administrative record concerning his application.  According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, omitted from the administrative record were correspondences between the NFL and Ashmore’s legal counsel regarding rescheduling the medical examinations and his requests for accommodations.
Ashmore’s counsel stated the denial was particularly disconcerting considering the regular communication between himself and the NFL regarding rescheduling the medical examinations and requests for accommodations.  The lawsuit states that included with the appeal were the correspondences between Dabdoub and the NFL that were omitted from the record; also included in the appeal were medical records and documentation, that supported Ashmore’s total and permanent disability.

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According to Dabdoub, “The NFL led us to believe they were engaging us and working to accommodate Darryl’s reasonable request.  They ambushed us with a letter denying Darryl’s benefits, and the sole reason was that he didn’t appear for these examinations. It was a very disingenuous move by the NFL.”  Dabdoub has stated that Ashmore clearly meets the disability requirements.
Darryl Ashmore was also represented in the class action litigation in which a federal appeals court in April upheld a billion dollar plan to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits against the NFL, which has been widely criticized as inadequate.
“The NFL doesn’t want to face the music with regards to Darryl’s physical and cognitive problems.” Dabdoub said,  “One has to wonder if approving Darryl, when one of the main disabling conditions is cognitive impairment stemming from repeated blows to the head, could have repercussions on the larger concussion cases and settlements.”