I recently blogged about Attorney Fees in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases, but there are instances where attorneys can get paid for work performed before the federal court under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). To aid individuals have access to the Court systems to remedy unjust governmental action by paying attorney fees and costs, the Federal government enacted the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). 5 U.S.C. § 504; 28 U.S.C. § 2412. To receive payment under EAJA, several criteria must be met:
(1) The individual must be an eligible party. Under the Administrative Procedure Act an individual is an eligible party if his or her net worth does not exceed 2 million dollars. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(3).
(2) The individual must be the prevailing party. 27 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A).
(3) The government's position must not have been "substantially justified" of that no "special circumstances" exist that would make a fee award unjust. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The burden of proof is on the government.
(4) There must be a final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2).
Once the above-referenced conditions have been met and an application has been filed, attorney's fees and costs can be awarded. EAJA provides for costs such as filing fees, copying costs, long-distance phone charges, postage, research, etc.
The fee application must be submitted by filing a motion or application with the court within thirty (30) days of the final judgment. Generally, fees are only awarded for work performed before the Court system, but limited fees can be awarded for work performed at the Administrative level following a remand by the Court. The Act provides that fees be limited to $125.00 per hour unless a special finding of increase in the cost of living or a special factor is made.
Fees under EAJA cannot be collected in combination for fees under SSA for the same work. The representative can make a Fee Petition for work done during the administrative stages and then a petition for EAJA fees for representation in the court system. If the administrative work was unusually large, then the percentage of past due benefits may not fully compensate the representative for the total amount of work performed. In that case, the attorney can collect under EAJA for the court work performed. There is some authority that the attorney should elect to be paid out of EAJA because that would ease the financial burden on an already cash strapped claimant.
If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and western North Carolina.