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Demand SAG disability pension be reinstated to member with Traumatic Brain Injury

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Demand disability benefits reinstated to SAG Member and Traumatic Brain Injury sufferer, Leslie Hoffman

Much like your favorite NFL Players who have struggled to get proper care after repeated concussions (TBIs) and physical injuries, the stunt performers providing the exciting action for your favorite stars are also struggling with the same abuse from their own union and Pension and Health Plan!

See below for links to sound clips so you can hear for yourself what little regard SAG Pension and Health Trustees and Staff have for disabled members. There are also links to news articles and further records on the case.

THE ISSUE

Occupational Disability Pension and Health insurance was established to aid disabled SAG Members who are injured on the job.  Ms. Hoffman applied to receive her benefits which would allow her full pension and to pay a premium to receive supplementary health insurance.  All she wanted was the ability to buy into a policy for which she qualified due to her work related disability.  When her case was reviewed, trustees belittled Ms. Hoffman's 25 year career and mocked her disabilities which were a result of a Traumatic Brain Injury and physical injuries incurred while performing stunts. They joked about reasons to deny her without cause. You can hear recordings of these attacks for yourself by following the links below.

SOUND CLIP #1 - In which a trustee comments that in regards to Leslie Hoffman, they would like to HURT her....err....help her to which the room breaks out in gales of laughter. Another trustee then comments that they will “simply agree”.

https://youtu.be/aQdqjEt4WSM

SOUND CLIP #2 - In which, instead of adhering to SAG - Producer’s Pension and Health policies, trustees struggle to redefine what constitutes being deemed ‘disabled’ so as to find any excuse to deny benefits to a vested member. Their creative excuses include; being able to enter the room unassisted, being no worse off than others who have done “stupid athletic s*** their whole lives”, and somehow making the (former) head executive of the board feel that you (Leslie) might be in better shape than he is. NO JOKE! LISTEN FOR YOURSELF!!!

https://youtu.be/ehZaw_8IPw4

SOUND CLIP #3 - In which a SAG Trustee comments that although Ms. Hoffman’s Claim is likely valid, if they grant her the benefits she is owed as a vested member and word were to get out about it then there might be many other disabled stunt players seeking future benefits as well.

https://youtu.be/XqlgUy9iMzg - For Full Version

http://youtu.be/qo__9q-dFWI - For Short Version

After hearing how her case was handled, Ms. Hoffman reported the facts to media outlets. She was punished by having her regular disability benefits discontinued without cause or explanation. To add insult to injury, she also received a letter demanding reimbursement for over 10 years worth of previous Disability Plan benefits totaling over $130,000!

THE HISTORY

Leslie Hoffman was the first stuntwoman elected to the SAG Board of Directors and chaired the stunt committee in the 80’s. She was also an outspoken advocate for equal rights. Leslie had over 25 years vested as an industry professional when the physical demands of her career finally took an extreme toll. Leslie incurred repetitive injuries while in the employment of several large entertainment companies. She received a settlement in a Worker’s Comp case. In 2004 Social Security declared Leslie disabled retroactive to 2002, allowing her to receive support through them and making her eligible to receive benefits from SAG’s Occupational Disability Pension and Health program which Producers had contributed to for over two and a half decades on her behalf. In addition to the back and neck injuries already on record, Leslie struggled with a number or additional changes in her cognitive abilities. These afflictions were ultimately attributed to Traumatic Brain Injury which was diagnosed by the use of multiple SPECT tests administered by two independent brain trauma specialist who are both leaders in their field. Click links below for more information.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen - Was The Expert Consulted For The Recent Will Smith Film, Concussions

Dr. Uszler - Is Used As A Medical Expert For News Resources -Discusses Death of Junior Seau

THE PROOF

Legally, Ms. Hoffman has shown proof of her disabilities through doctor’s reports and brain scan results, the settlement with her former employment companies, and the affirmation of the Social Security system thus her eligibility for access of her Occupational Disability Pension and Health Plan benefits is irrefutable.

THE CONTEMPT

Even before her hearing, emails had been sent from the SAG Health Staff to their Lawyers explaining that they wanted Ms. Hoffman’s case to be denied for fear that other disabled stunt performers would also file claims. SAG Health also had their doctor, who is neither certified nor qualified in the area of Traumatic Brain Injury, review her case though he never met with or examined Ms. Hoffman.

At the Los Angeles / New York SAG Pension and Health meeting during which Ms. Hoffman’s case was reviewed there were several P&H trustees who had been connected to the SAG board as directors, staff, or as committee members during the same years that Leslie served on the board. Some of these members were antagonistic to Ms. Hoffman because of her advocacy for the stunt community. They belittled Ms. Hoffman’s career and mocked her disabilities before knowing the extent of her injuries. One of the trustees then stated that they feared that if The Occupational Disability Pension and Health Plan benefits were to be granted to Leslie Hoffman and word got out, then there might be a lot more claims from other injured stunt performers. Their refusal caused Leslie Hoffman to file an ERISA lawsuit to fight for what was rightfully due to her as a vested member of the plan.

See links above for actual recordings from this meeting documenting these misdeeds.

HOW THIS AFFECTS ALL MEMBERS

Considering that any such disabled stunt performers or SAG Members would also have to show proof of work related injury before receiving Occupational Disability and Health benefits, the former Trustee's statement, along with the recent actions of SAG Pension and Health leaders, demonstrate the lack of regard for injured stunt performers and other SAG Members.  These Members who spent decades working to have the Producers contribute to The Plan on their behalf can anticipate being denied coverage when they need it most.  SAG Health has already taken away the ability for the Early Retirees and the Disabled Pensioners to buy into the Health Plan.  The Senior Pensioners' costs have skyrocketed.  The participants are being abused, as is Leslie Hoffman as documented here.  

Unless we hold our representatives at SAG-AFTRA and SAG Pension and Health responsible for their misdeeds we cannot hope for a better future.

We, the undersigned, demand that:

SAG Pension and Health CEO, Michael Estrada

All SAG P&H Plan Staff (especially Head of the Pension Plan & Head of the Health Plan)

SAG-AFTRA President, Gabrielle Carteris

SAG-AFTRA Vice President, Rebecca Damon

SAG-AFTRA National Secretary-Treasurer and President of  SAG-AFTRA Hollywood Local as well as being a fellow stunt performer, Jane Austin,

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director, David White, who is also a trustee at the SAG Producer’s Pension and Health Plan

SAG-AFTRA Chief Operating Officer Duncan Crabtree-Ireland who is also a trustee at the SAG Producer’s Pension and Health Plan

SAG-AFTRA Associate National Executive Director, Mathis Dunn

All SAG-AFTRA National Board Members and all Local SAG-AFTRA Board Members

* Immediately reinstate Ms. Hoffman’s monthly disability benefits retroactively to when they were cancelled without cause thus also retracting their demand for repayment of previous benefits.

* Complete necessary responsibilities so that Ms. Hoffman’s submission for Occupational Disability Pension and Health Plan benefits can be fairly reviewed. In April 2014 the Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals ruled that SAG P&H had violated their own policy by not having a second opinion executed. Since that time the Plan has continued to delay, refused to submit necessary paperwork, and neglected to meet agreed deadlines for the review that would allow Ms. Hoffman to obtain a fair decision on her case, thus causing the filing of a second ERISA lawsuit.

And request assistance about what SAG Health Plan is doing to TBI Sufferer, Leslie Hoffman from:

Susan Conners, President / CEO at the Brain Injury Association

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., and Rep. Tom Rooney who co-chair The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force

* We request that these knowledgable leaders and advocates for the victims of brain injury to please advise the trustees of the plan on the importance of acknowledging the physical and mental effects of TBI, of immediately reinstating Ms. Hoffman’s earned disability benefits, of rescinding the demand of reimbursement of $130,000, and to begin cooperating to facilitate Ms. Hoffman’s lawsuits for the Occupational Pension and Health benefits for which she has qualified.

Resources

#1- As revealed by the investigative reporting of Deadline Hollywood (#2) and noted in the National Legal and Policy Center article on the case, Plan Trustees mocked Ms. Hoffman’s career and disabilities before actually acknowledging that the records lent validity to her eligibility for benefits though by granting her such benefits, they feared it would allow other disabled performers to seek benefits in the future.

http://deadline.com/2015/06/former-sag-board-member-leslie-hoffmans-toughest-stuntgetting- her-union-benefits-1201448519/

#2- Follow up expose revealing how SAG Producer’s Pension and Health Plan executives acted to punish Ms. Hoffman for fighting for her earned Occupational Disability Pension and Health benefits, which would allow her to buy into the Senior Supplement Health Plan by stripping her of the disability pension benefits for which she had already qualified and had been receiving for over a decade.

http://deadline.com/2015/06/sag-pension-health-plans-strips-disabled-stuntwoman-of-her-pension-1201453009/

#3- Traumatic Brain Injury is what many NFL players have suffered and was the topic of the recent film, Concussion, which starred Will Smith. In fact, the NFL players just won a large settlement to pay for the medical care of those with TBI.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2015/04/22/concussion-related-lawsuits-judgesettlement- nfl/26199011/.

#4- Article from the National Legal and Policy Center regarding Ms. Hoffman’s case.

http://nlpc.org/stories/2015/07/07/sag-denies-hollywood-ex-stuntwoman-her-due-benefits

#5- Recent article from Forbes which referenced Ms. Hoffman’s fight for access to her disability benefits as one more way that stunt performers are not recognized as equals with their peers.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alishagrauso/2016/02/24/hollywoods-stunt-coordinators-fight-for-oscar-recognition-after-another-snub/#41b643e77f88

Stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman is at the fore-front of a movement to enlighten the public as to the existence of post concussive syndrome and the fight for its victims to be recognized and validated. We, the membership, should show Ms. Hoffman support both as a predecessor who helped build SAG-AFTRA into what it is today and also because the outcome of her case could likely impact on whether we have access to our own benefits in the future.

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