DENVER – Former Denver Broncos safety Christopher Young is suing the NFL Player Retirement Plan and its neurocognitive benefit plan and is seeking $345,000 in benefits his attorney claims he is owed but was wrongfully denied.
Young, 38, was a backup safety and special teams player for the Broncos from 2002 to 2005. He was a seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2002 and played in 21 games with the team , recording seven combined tackles. He suffered a knee injury to begin the 2005 preseason.
The suit , filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado by San Antonio, Tex.-based attorney Jeffrey Dahl, claims that Young initially applied for benefits related to impairments he suffered stemming from injuries he received while playing professional football shortly after the end of his career.
Per NFL Retirement Board and Disability Initial Claims Committee’s rules, he underwent an orthopedic exam that found 28 percent of his body was impaired by the injuries, the suit claims. It also claims that he was having trouble sleeping and suffering from depression at that time.
In 2014, he again applied for benefits, saying he was suffering from depression, paranoia, mood swings, memory loss and anxiety.
But several tests done by doctors hired by both him and the plan’s administrators turned up mixed results as to how long his conditions were expected to persist. The benefits plan requires such conditions to persist for at least 12 months for it to be considered permanent under the plan, according to the suit.
And since plan doctors never said that his conditions would last for that long, the committee denied his claim, as well as an appeal, the suit claims.
It says that Young worked “sporadically” for the Denver Parks and Recreation Department while the tests and appeal were ongoing but that he earned only about $35,000 total between 2014 and 2016. It says his condition improved slightly in 2017 and he was able to work more, earning $47,453 that year.
But the suit claims that the board’s denial of his benefits “was an abuse of discretion” because the board based its assessment of his mental health conditions on a certain date, when the suit claims he was actually suffering well before that date.
“There is no medical evidence to support the board’s position that the onset date of Young’s disabling depression and anxiety was June 30, 2015,” the suit says.
Young and his attorney are seeking benefits to total $345,000 for retirement and disability benefits from 2014, 2015 and 2016. He is also seeking attorneys’ fees and costs.
The NFL benefits office did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.