During his entire NFL career, Atkins played as defensive back for the New Orleans Saints, respectively from 1987 to 1993. Thereafter, he also played for Miami Dolphins from 1994 until 1996. In December 2004, he applied for disability benefits several times and has been granted with initial benefits in 2006.
However, Atkins wanted more than that, which was why he aimed for a more generous benefit called the Football Degenerative. Consequently, he filed a lawsuit against Bert Bell/Pete Rozell NFL Player Retirement Plan after he was repeatedly denied greater disability benefits.
Unfortunately for Atkins, until h is last moment of appeal, the three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals supported the previous decision denying his request for increased disability benefits.
Incidentally, the NFL Player Retirement Plan’s disability benefits has two levels—one is the “Inactive level,” which currently pays Atkins, and the other one is the “Football Degenerative level,” which awards recipients with more money.
Further explaining the difference of the two, inactive benefits apply only to players whose disability was the result of something other than football, while degenerative benefits apply only to players whose disability was a direct result of an injury or occurrence in his time of NFL career.
In the recent resolution, the court cited mixed medical opinions from doctors, which apparently did not clearly prove that Atkins’ disability arose from playing professional football.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles long term disability lawyer theorized that Atkins apparently did not exhibit any changes in his circumstances, that is why his claim was often denied. Keep in mind that modified or updated medical records and other legal documents should be clear and convincing in such appeals.