A court may require the Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) to pay legal fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) when a claimant pursues an appeal. EAJA fees are usually awarded even if the court remands the case to the SSA for another hearing rather than ordering the SSA to pay disability benefits. In fact, a court can award attorney fees even if the SSA offered to remand the case before the court issued a decision.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley ruled that it was reasonable to award attorney fees to me for time I expended after I refused to accept the SSA’s offer to remand a claimant’s case. Previously, Judge Hurley had remanded the case for another hearing before the same SSA Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). If the ALJ corrects his decision and awards SSD benefits, the EAJA fees will be applied to reduce the claimant’s legal fees.
From a practitioner’s perspective, Judge Hurley’s decision was also significant for two additional reasons. First, Judge Hurley ruled that Westlaw research costs should be reimbursed. Second, Judge Hurley ruled that the EAJA fees would be paid directly to the attorney because the claimant had executed an assignment.