WASHINGTON (AP) -The NFL and its players union, which have been under fire for their policy toward retired players, have modified their disability program and doubled the benefits in one part of it.
The changes were made Thursday by the NFL Alliance, a newly formed group that includes commissioner Roger Goodell; Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association; and representatives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and NFL Alumni Association.
They including doubling the payment for non-football ``total and permanent'' disability for retired players from $20,000 a year to $40,000. If a player's pension is more than $40,000, he will receive that.
In addition, players who took an early pension will have a chance to apply for disability benefits between April 1 and July 31, 2008. Upshaw has frequently cited the low pensions for many retirees on the fact that many take them early after retirement.
The new program also changes the rules so that players who have established total disability under Social Security will not need to establish it separately, another subject that had been a sore spot with retired players. Those who were denied disability under the NFL plan but were qualified by Social Security can now have their NFL cases appealed.
``These voluntary improvements are consistent with our commitment to address post-career issues and improve the benefits of retired players,'' said Harold Henderson, the league's vice president for labor relations.
Ten former players attended the meeting, including some, such as Harry Carson and Daryl Johnston, who have been critical of the union and league's efforts to help retired players. Other retired players who attended included Steve Largent, Willie Lanier, Andre Collins, Jean Fugett, Leonard Marshall, Brig Owens, Troy Vincent and John Wooden.
Vincent is president of the NFLPA.

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