Many Portland residents wonder how they will be able to afford an attorney when they apply for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability benefits. Attorneys can greatly influence the likelihood that a disability application will be approved on appeal but many applicants fear that they do not have enough money for an attorney. Many disability applicants have the government pay for attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act when an application is approved on appeal. Attorney’s fees can be awarded when a claimant is approved for benefits following an appeal if the initial denial of the claim was not “substantially justified” under the EAJA.
A recent Portland Social Security case illustrates how courts analyze requests for attorney’s fees. The case arises out of a claim for supplemental security income filed by a Portland resident who became disabled in 2001. The SSI claim was filed in 2003 and it took another seven years for the case to be finally decided by an appeals court. This illustrates the length of the appeals process and the importance of obtaining competent legal advice as early as possible.
The Portland SSI applicant alleged that he was disabled based on his ADHD, degenerative disk disease and a learning disorder. The claimant went through the reconsideration process after his initial application was denied. An administrative law judge finally heard the applicant’s case in 2005, two years after he filed. The applicant testified at the hearing in addition to doctors, vocational experts and other witnesses. The ALJ ultimately denied the applicant’s claim because the ALJ determined that the applicant retained the ability to work despite his severe disability.
We will discuss further developments in this case in our next post.
Source: Hardisty v. Astrue, 3:06-cv-01670-BR, U.S. 9 Cir. App. 2010