The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter, J.
Plaintiff Gretta J. Segers brings a motion for attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (the "EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, which provides for the award of reasonable attorney's fees to a prevailing party other than the United States in, inter alia, social security appeals brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Ms. Segers's motion for fees.
Ms. Segers filed an application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits on September 1, 2004, alleging disability as of of September 7, 2000. (R. 51.) She later changed the onset date to September 1, 2004. (R. 343.)
Ms. Segers's application for benefits was denied, (R. 37), and she was granted an administrative hearing. At this hearing, Ms. Segers, her sister, and a Vocational Expert ("VE") all testified before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. 347-382.)
Following the hearing, the ALJ denied Ms. Segers's claim for disability benefits. (R. 11- 27.) The ALJ issued a decision finding that, absent her alcohol abuse/dependency,*fn1 Ms. Segers but could perform unskilled medium exertional work that accommodated her need to avoid contact with the public, more than occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors, including her former work as a housekeeper and food service worker. (R. 25-26, Finding Nos. 6, 8.) The Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision on May 25, 2007, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
On November 5, 2007, Ms. Segers filed a motion for summary judgment (request for review). In her summary judgment motion, Ms. Segers argued that the ALJ had committed several errors of law and that the ALJ's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The Commissioner responded to this motion on December 4, 2007, highlighting evidence of Ms. Segers's functionality and activities during periods of sobriety. The Commissioner argued that the ALJ did not commit legal errors and substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that, absent alcohol use/abuse, Ms. Segers could perform simple unskilled work that she did in the past, including the jobs of housekeeper and food service worker.
The matter was referred to the Honorable Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport. Judge Rapoport, after considering Ms. Segers's Request for Review and the Commissioner's response, submitted a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the ALJ's decision denying benefits be affirmed.
Ms. Segers objected to the R&R, and this Court conducted a review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b). The Court approved and adopted the R&R and denied Ms. Segers's objections with respect to all alleged errors of law. However, the Court rejected the Report and Recommendation with respect to the alleged evidentiary errors, remanding the matter to the Commissioner for further review to consider Ms. Segers functional limitations in the absence of alcohol use. Specifically, the Court concluded that [f]indings Nos. 4-6 and 8-11 of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") may not be supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to consider or give proper weight to the (1) May 10, 2005 assessment of treating physician Dr. Ronald Serota, who opines as to the degree of severity of Plaintiff's functional limitations in the absence of alcohol use (R. 270); (2) November 9, 2004 assessment of treating therapist Kate L. Jones, who opines as to Plaintiff's inability to concentrate and complete work "sequentially or promptly,"Ó to cook for herself, to perform basic activities such as shopping alone, and to manage her finances (R. 61-66); and (3) totality of the evidence in the record with respect to Plaintiff's limitations in the absence of alcohol use.
Order of July 23, 2009 at 1, n.1 (Docket No. 15) (emphasis added).
Ms. Seger was awarded full benefits on remand.*fn2 On October 17, 2008, Ms. Segers filed a motion for attorney fees under the EAJA, which the Commissioner opposes on the grounds that the Commissioner's position in this case was substantially justified.The Court held an oral argument on this motion on April 6, 2009.
The Equal Access to Justice Act provides,
Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort), including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that the position of the United states was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A). The parties do not dispute that Ms. Segers is a "prevailing party" under the EAJA. See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 301-02 (1993) (social security/disability claimant can obtain EAJA attorney fee award for achieving remand of case to Commissioner). Also, the Commissioner does not argue that there are any "special ...