NFL Pension Plan Statement

By Jeff Nixon
Sep. 27, 2016

If you are vested in the NFL Pension Plan you should have received a letter from the NFL Player Benefits Office that shows a statement of your benefits under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan as of March 31, 2016. It is based on your credited seasons under the regular pension plan and the Legacy benefit. Please note that the Legacy Benefit Credit was only given to players that had four credited seasons before 1993. 

The Statement shows how much you would receive if you were to take your regular pension and Legacy benefit in 2016. It also shows how much it increases for each year you defer payments. I have written about the importance of deferring your retirement benefits , because from age 55 to age 65 the benefit increases by over 260%. For example: If you were scheduled to receive a $2,000 monthly payment at age 55, it would increase to $5,200 in just 10 years. 

At the bottom of the statement there were three bullet points that caught my attention:

• If you have three or more Credited Seasons, you are 100% vested in the retirement benefits described in this statement

• Generally, if you have fewer than three Credited Seasons, you are not vested in the retirement benefits described above

• You may be vested in the retirement benefits if you earned at least five Years of Service (such as for service on the Practice Squad).

First of all, there are hundreds of former players that have three Credited Seasons that ARE NOT VESTED in the Pension Plan because they did not have a credited season in 1993 or thereafter. So, “generally” speaking, hundreds of former players that have fewer than four Credited Seasons, are not vested in the retirement plan and will not receive a monthly pension check.

To rub salt into the wound, the Retirement Board statement mentions how players who are on the Practice Squad (and have never played in a regular season game) can qualify for a pension!

Think about that for a minute.

You have some former players that are not receiving a pension because they only played three years in the NFL and yet there will be some players that are on Practice Squads that will receive $560 per credited season for the years 2012-2014 and $660 per credited season for the years 2015 and 2016. Those players will receive a $3,000 check every month at age 55 - for the rest of their life. And if they defer their pension until age 65 they will receive a $7,857 check every month.

To recap……….They never played a down in the NFL, but they could eventually get a pension worth $94,284 annually! God bless the NFLPA for negotiating this for the current players, but what about the pre-1993 guys that actually played in games for three years and get absolutely nothing?  Many of those players were involved in player strikes and got blackballed from the league for their union activities and never got a chance to earn a 4th credited season. Some of those men laid the foundations of the union. Isn’t it time the NFL and NFLPA did something to help them?

I have written about the need to level the playing field and set the vesting requirement at 3 Credited Seasons for all former players. That has always fallen on deaf ears - and will continue to be ignored by the NFL Players Association until former players can convince the active players to take a stand on this issue and negotiate something in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Former players can only do so much in advocating for these forgotten men. There are also calls to help anyone who played even one season in the NFL. Major League Baseball did something for their players, so why can’t the NFL? There are many other issues regarding the under-funding of the Pension Plan, and the need for across the board increases. So, if you’re getting outraged over the Pension Plan. Do something about it!