NFL Pension Plan Tackles Ex-Colt’s Charge

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Former NFL player Arthur E. Schlichter won’t get a service credit toward pension benefits for the season he was suspended for gambling, a federal judge in Indiana held ( Schlichter v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Ret. Plan , 2017 BL 80750, S.D. Ind., No. 1:16-cv-00061-WTL-TAB, 3/15/17 ).

The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan didn’t abuse its discretion when it declined to award credit for 1983 to Schlichter, who quarterbacked for the Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts in the 1980s, Judge William T. Lawrence said March 15. Although Schlichter was under a contract that year, he wasn’t an “active player” as defined in the plan, because he wasn’t playing football due to his suspension for violating National Football League rules against gambling.

The NFL plan provides participants with health care, life insurance and other benefits that are determined, in part, based on the number of “credited seasons.”

Schlichter suffers from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments as a result of the “traumatic brain injuries” he sustained during his career as an NFL player, according to court documents.

Lawrence’s decision means Schlichter will receive service credit only for the years 1982, 1984 and 1985. Ruling for the NFL pension plan, Lawrence said he couldn’t find the plan’s interpretation arbitrary or capricious.

Cohen & Malad LLP represents Schlichter. Groom Law Group Chartered and Delaney & Delaney LLC represent the NFL plan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bna.com

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