United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider, Schneider Kerr Law Offices, Portland, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.
S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Adrian L. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon, John C. Lamont, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration Seattle, Washington, Franco L. Becia, Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security Administration Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
ANN AIKEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Stacey Nordland seeks attorney fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. The Corrnnissioner of Social Security ("Corrnnissioner") opposes plaintiff's motion on the basis that its position was substantially justified and the amount requested is unreasonable. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is denied.
Plaintiff initially filed applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") on June 9, 1995. On March 24, 1999, after a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act"). The Appeals Council accepted review and remanded the case for further proceedings. On November 7, 2005, after a second administrative hearing, the ALJ issued another unfavorable decision. On June 27, 2006, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's 2005 decision. Plaintiff did not file any further appeals thereafter.
On July 31, 2007, plaintiff filed new DIB and SSI applications. On August 30, 2010, the third ALJ hearing was held, wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). On September 19, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. After the Appeals Council declined review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court raising three allegations of error. Specifically, plaintiff asserted that the ALJ erred by: (1) dismissing her DIB claim and assessing her SSI claim from November 8, 2005 forward, despite the fact that her alleged onset date was June 15, 1994; (2) improperly discrediting her subjective symptom testimony; and (3) inadequately weighing the medical evidence from Stewart Swen'a, M.D. Pl.'s Opening Br. 6.
The Court found no error regarding these three issues, but nonetheless reversed and remanded the ALJ's decision due to plaintiff's narcotic use, which was not considered in formulating her residual functioning capacity ("RFC"). See generally Epperson-Nordland v. Colvin, 2013 WL 5774110 (D. Or. Oct. 22, 2013). Subsequently, plaintiff timely moved for attorney fees in the amount of $4, 512.76. Pl.'s Reply to Mot. Att'y Fees 5.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Born on December 21, 1964, plaintiff was 29 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 45 years old at the time of the 2010 hearing. Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade, obtained her GED, and attended two years of college. She previously worked as a bookkeeper.
In determining whether plaintiff qualified for DIB and SSI, the ALJ completed the five-step sequential process outlined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one of this process, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 8, 2005, the date after the Commissioner's previous final decision. At step two, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "[f]ibromyalgia, reactive airway disease, pain disorder, depressive disorder and a history of obesity." Tr. 19. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Because plaintiff did not establish disability at step three, the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiff's impairments affected her ability to work. The ALJ resolved that plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, but was limited to only "superficial interaction with the public, supervisors and co-workers" and "unskilled work and routine tasks." Tr. 21. In addition, plaintiff "should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, orders, dusts, gasses and humidity." Id.
At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff had no past relevant work. Finally, at step five, the ALJ concluded that, based on the VE's testimony, plaintiff could perform a significant number of jobs existing in the national and local economy despite her impairments, such as garment sorter, cannery worker, and ...