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WILLIAMS v. SULLIVAN
August 16, 1989
LIZZIE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
LOUIS SULLIVAN, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR
MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lizzie Williams ("Williams") seeks an award of $ 6,832.20 in attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) ("Section 2412(d)"), following an ultimate victory in her efforts to obtain disability and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan ("Secretary")
opposes that request because, he says, Williams is not a "prevailing party" in this action -- the operative standard under EAJA. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Williams' petition for fees is denied.
This action was initially filed September 12, 1986 for a review of Secretary's determination that Williams was not disabled, as she had claimed in several successive applications for benefits (Secretary's decision to that effect was an affirmance of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Dale McLaughlin's April 18, 1986 recommendation, based on his findings stemming from an October 24, 1985 hearing). This Court's July 9, 1987 memorandum opinion and order (the "Opinion," 664 F. Supp. 1200 (N.D.Il. 1987)) rejected Secretary's adverse determination because the ALJ had not adequately explained the reasons for his findings (so that "this Court has found it impossible to determine whether they are, in their entirety, contrary to law or based on substantial evidence" ( id. at 1210)).
Consequently the case was remanded to Secretary for further consideration of Williams' claims.
After a supplemental hearing, ALJ Richard Palewicz issued a February 10, 1989 recommendation that Williams should be found to have become disabled as of November 26, 1986 -- but not as of the much earlier dates she had claimed in the earlier administrative proceeding and before this Court. In the course of his careful and extended review of Williams' entire extensive medical history, ALJ Palewicz said this (Recommended Decision at 12):
Considering the assessments by treating doctors and the medical evidence up to 1986, the Administrative Law Judge sees no reason why the claimant could not have done light work. The issue of transferability of work skills is immaterial as Rules 202.17 and 202.13 would direct a finding of not disabled. Even if the claimant were limited to sedentary work, Rules 201.19, 201.20, 201.24 and 201.25 would direct the same finding. Considering the medical findings referred to above, e.g., normal electrocardiograms and chest x-rays, treating physicians' assessments, and a normal neurological workup, the Administrative Law Judge finds that for the period considered by the prior Administrative Law Judge, the claimant's testimony as to exertional limitations and pain is not supported by the medical record and is not credible. Considering the evidence before the prior Administrative Law Judge and new evidence submitted for the period prior to 1986, the Administrative Law Judge sees no reason to reopen the prior denial decision.
That led to these findings among others (id. at 13-15 (emphasis in original)):
4. The claimant's current complaints of severe pain and functional limitations are credible because they are supported by the medical findings and signs of record.
5. The claimant's testimony of severe pain and functional limitations dating back to 1981 is not credible because such testimony is not supported by medical findings and signs in the record.
8. As of November 26, 1986, the claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work as a repairer of circuit boards.
9. Prior to November 26, 1986, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of simple and ...
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