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Former Rams player sues after denial of NFL benefits for disability

Former Rams player sues after denial of NFL benefits for disability
Darryl Ashmore (77), pictured at an L.A. Rams practice at UC Irvine in 1994, suffers from physical and cognitive problems, including early-onset dementia. according to a lawsuit he filed this week. (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)

A former Rams offensive lineman has accused the NFL's Player Disability and Neurocognitive Benefit Plan of denying "total and permanent disability" benefits because he couldn't travel from his Florida home to out-of-state examinations.

Filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla., the lawsuit said 46-year-old Darryl Ashmore suffers from a numerous physical and cognitive problems including early-onset dementia.

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"He's dealing with a lot of stuff," his Florida-based attorney, Edward Daboub, said Thursday. "The sad news is it's only going to get worse."

After Ashmore applied for total disability -- which could pay an estimated $11,000 to $15,000 a month -- the plan scheduled three prerequisite medical examinations for October 2015. One of them was in Texas. Ashmore's attorney asked that the appointments be moved closer to home, the lawsuit said, because "Mr. Ashmore cannot endure travel due to chronic pain, especially travel by plane."

He played for the Rams from 1993 to 1996 and later spent time with the Redskins and Raiders.

The lawsuit said Ashmore's physical problems include: "chronic pain in his neck, knees, back, wrist and shoulders, herniated discs, degenerative arthritis … hypertension, nausea, and frequent and severe migraines." He also has "memory loss, depression, anxiety and impaired concentration."

The appointments were rescheduled for Atlanta in November 2015. Ashmore's attorney requested unspecified accommodations for the examinations, the lawsuit said, and remained concerned they weren't in-state. On Nov. 3, 2015, the plan rejected the claim because Ashmore didn't attend the appointments.

In August, the plan denied Ashmore's appeal of the decision. The lawsuit said the administrative record of the case didn't contain any record of the correspondence between Ashmore's attorney and the plan regarding rescheduling the appointments.

The plan is overseen by a three-member committee that includes representatives from the NFL and NFL Players Assn.

An NFL spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit; the NFLPA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a memorandum sent earlier this year to the U.S. Department of Labor, the law firm that oversees the plan estimated it gives out about $10 million a month to retired NFL players and said the plan "may provide the most generous disability benefits in the world."

Ashmore's lawsuit seeks the disability benefits and attorney's fees.

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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