He Helped Ex-Players Get Benefits. His Family is actually Still Waiting.
Webster’s career lasted through 1974 to 1990, ending just before the advent of free agency along with the massive increase in N.F.L. salaries which sparked. After Webster retired, his declining health, escalating medical bills, long slide into dementia along with years of wandering the country took a toll on Garrett Webster, his three siblings along with their mother, Pam.
She exhausted her savings long ago. She lives off credit cards, Social Security along with an annuity. Unable to afford a home, she has spent the past a few years staying with friends along with family. Careful not to overstay her welcome, she traveled during one six-week stretch to Pittsburgh, the West Coast, Minnesota, Wisconsin along with then back to Pittsburgh, where she stays with Garrett.
Through which all, she along with her four children have continued a fight to receive a multimillion-dollar award through the N.F.L.’s concussion settlement with retired players.
As a part of the settlement, the N.F.L. agreed to make compensation payments which will stretch into the millions to retired players with severe cognitive along with neurological problems. On paper, at least, the Websters should receive nearly $3 million based on his age at the time of the diagnosis, 50, along with the number of years he played within the N.F.L., 17. The criteria are an attempt to gauge how long players were exposed to head trauma along with how directly which exposure could be linked to health problems: Younger players are paid more on the presumption which football, not old age, caused their problems.
To the Websters’ dismay, they found out after the settlement agreement was announced which Iron Mike, as he was known in Pittsburgh, was not automatically part of which. which’s because the deal excludes players who died before Jan. 1, 2006.
The N.F.L. pushed for a cutoff date to prevent a stream of families through filing claims for long-deceased fathers along with husbands. The plaintiffs’ lawyers ultimately agreed on 2006, which allowed more families to file claims, although was far enough back which which excluded the families of players who died before then through bringing wrongful-death along with different suits against the league.
The Websters along with different families in their position still have a glimmer of wish. The federal judge within the case, Anita B. Brody, left open a legal window for families of players who died before 2006 which their lawyers wish to exploit. Jason Luckasevic, the lawyer for the Websters, needs to show which the family still has the right to file a legal case against the league under their state’s statute of limitations.
Christopher Seeger, a co-lead counsel for the retired players who sued the league, declined to be interviewed on the phone. In an email, he explained which some players objected to the 2006 cutoff date, although without a settlement which at least captured players dating to 2006, many more would certainly face the same stringent limitations as the Websters.
The 2006 cutoff date “is actually the result of hard-fought negotiations between the parties,” he wrote in court filings in 2015. “Had the plaintiffs not secured which provision, claimants on behalf of all deceased class members would certainly have had to show which their claims were timely.”
The exclusion applies to players who died through all diseases covered by the settlement, including A.L.S. along with Parkinson’s disease. although which is actually a particularly crushing blow to the Websters along with to the families of two different former Steelers, Terry Long along with Justin Strzelczyk, who also died before 2006 along with received the same posthumous diagnosis Mike Webster did. They spent many years listening to league officials question any connection between playing football along which has a degenerative brain condition, before 2016, when the N.F.L. grudgingly acknowledged a link between football along with the disease.
“If you asked the 20,000 retirees who are part of the class, they would certainly say Mike Webster should be paid first,” Mr. Luckasevic said.
The league along with the administrator for the settlement say which despite early hiccups along with the need to weed out fraudulent claims, the process is actually operating as intended. More than $150 million has been awarded along with many hundreds of different claims are being evaluated.
“We are pleased the concussion settlement is actually proceeding as the parties along with the court intended,” Brian McCarthy, an N.F.L. spokesman, said.
Jo-Ann M. Verrier, who was appointed by the judge to help resolve complicated cases, said there were about 40 claims filed by the families of players who died before 2006 which possess the potential to set legal precedent. which means she must make sure to create a process to evaluate them fairly. Once which process is actually completed, the different special master, Wendell Pritchett, will begin to rule on the claims, which will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis.
“We want to create a process where we can decide on these issues once along with for all,” Ms. Verrier said.
Garrett Webster, though, is actually losing his patience.
“which’s insane which we haven’t been paid because every suit uses my dad in their case,” he said. Mr. Webster, who wore a Steelers sweatshirt to a sandwich shop here on a recent afternoon, sat near pictures of his father along with different Steelers players on the walls. “If Mike Webster doesn’t happen, which case doesn’t happen,” he added.
Sitting in a booth next to her son, picking at a salad, Pam Webster said she along with her children were used to delays. Starting within the late-1990s, Mike Webster along with his lawyers spent years fighting for full disability benefits. After he died, a court finally ruled against the league’s disability board. which provided a hollow victory. The Websters are also seeking a so-called Legacy Benefit payment which the N.F.L. pays to families of deceased players. which is actually not likely to amount to more than a few thousand dollars per month.
An award within the concussion settlement could provide the Websters which has a financial shot within the arm when they truly need which. While Pam Webster travels through home to home, Garrett Webster has remained in Pittsburgh, where he lived with his father in his final years.
Both Webster daughters, Brooke, 41, along with Hillie, 30, have been treated for substance abuse. Pam Webster said those problems were a result of the stress of seeing their father’s life disintegrate after his N.F.L. career. Her different son, Colin, 38, was within the military. He has kept football at arm’s length for years. “which isn’t the way which was supposed to end,” Pam Webster said.
After Mike Webster retired in 1990, he moved his family to Wisconsin, where he along with Pam grew up. although after some poor financial decisions they lost their house. Webster occasionally made money when his friend Sunny Jani found him gigs signing autographs.
To help pay the bills, Pam Webster went to work at a restaurant, then became a personal care assistant after she found out the family had lost their health insurance. Mike Webster drifted through Pittsburgh, Wisconsin along with places in between. Their marriage fell apart.
The family’s relationship with the Steelers is actually complicated. At times, the team helped its former player along with his family. At different times, especially after his behavior became unpredictable, the organization kept its distance. In November, the team invited Pam along with Garrett Webster to a ceremony honoring team legends during a home game. which was the very first time she attended a game since 2002, when the Steelers honored her husband after his death.
They at which point proudly show off cellphone pictures of the steel football they received which day. They are careful to say they do not resent the Steelers. They want only what they believe the league owes them. Through a spokesman, the Steelers declined to comment on the settlement claim.
“We don’t hate football, we just are upset about Mike,” Pam Webster said. although she added: “Every time we step forward, which’s three steps back. One minute he’s remembered, along with one minute he’s forgotten.”
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