United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
G. Carr Sr. U.S. District Judge
a Social Security case in which the plaintiff, Craig Adkins,
successfully appealed from the Commissioner's decision
denying his application for benefits. Adkins v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2019 WL 1040943 (N.D. Ohio)
is Adkins's motion for attorney fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Doc.
19). The Commissioner opposes. (Doc. 20).
reasons that follow, I grant the motion in part.
The Disability Application and the ALJ's
December 16, 2014, Adkins applied for benefits, alleging
disability “due to severe anxiety and depression,
lumbar ruptured discs with constant pain and sleep
apnea.” (Doc. 9, PageID #171, 253-259). After a
hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected
Adkins's application, finding that Adkins “does not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
or medically equals” a listed impairment and that he
has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
sedentary work with limitations:
He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, never climb
ladders and ropes or scaffolds, and can occasionally balance,
stoop, but never kneel, crouch, and crawl. He is also limited
to performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks, but not at a
production rate pace, for example, no assembly line work. He
is limited to making simple work-related decisions. He is
limited to responding appropriately to occasional interaction
with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public. Finally,
he is limited to tolerating few changes in the work setting,
defined as routine job duties performed in a stable,
predictable work setting. Any necessary changes need to occur
very infrequently, if at all, and be adequately and easily
explained. He is to have a sit/stand option of: each 60
minutes the allowance to change position at the workstation
for two minutes.
(Id., PageID #68, 71).
concluded that, within this RFC, Adkins can perform
“jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy.” (Id., PageID #83).
appealed, arguing that the ALJ erred by 1) determining that
Adkins's back condition did not meet Listing 1.04A and 2)
failing to consider Adkins's functional limitations when
crafting the RFC. (Doc. 10 at 8). As to his second objection,
Adkins asserted that the “RFC finding . . . is founded
on the incorrect legal standard and misstated facts”
related to both his back condition and his mental health
impairments. (Id. at 12-23).
Judge Ruiz rejected Adkins's arguments and recommended
that I affirm the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 14).
objected. His objections focused only on his back condition,
that is, he asserted that the ALJ erred by failing to
consider a January, 2015 MRI when making the listed
impairment and RFC determinations. (Doc. 15).
overruled Adkins's objection as to the listed impairment
finding but sustained his objection as to the RFC
determination. Specifically, I held that the ALJ
mischaracterized the record evidence regarding Adkins's
back pain when she determined that “the
‘objective evidence' was ‘not consistent
[with] the degree of severity [Adkins] alleged[.]'”
Adkins, supra, 2019 WL 1040943 at *2
(quoting Doc. 9, PageID #72) (brackets in original). Rather,
I explained, “[t]he January, 2015 MRI[, ]” which
the ALJ never acknowledged, “appears to show that
[Adkins's] degenerative disc disease had worsened,
perhaps significantly, since his alleged onset date, in June,
2014.” Id. at *2 (internal citations omitted).
I vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded with
instructions to consider the January, 2015 MRI. Id.
Commissioner argues that 1) Adkins is not entitled to
attorneys' fees under the EAJA because the
Commissioner's position was substantially justified and
2) even if Adkins can recover attorneys' fees, the amount
sought is unreasonable.