United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
Reidinger United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Motion for Attorney Fees under § 406(b) of the Social
Security Act [Doc. 16]. The Defendant neither supports nor
opposes the Plaintiff's request. [Doc. 17].
December 6, 2016, the Plaintiff initiated this action seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny
his application for benefits under the Social Security Act.
[Doc. 1]. On June 27, 2017, this Court reversed the
Commissioner's decision denying the Plaintiff's
application for benefits and remanded the case to the Appeals
Council for further administrative action. [Doc. 12]. On July
26, 2017, the Court awarded the Plaintiff attorney's fees
in the amount of $3, 895.00 in full satisfaction of any and
all claims by the Plaintiff pursuant to the Equal Access to
Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (EAJA). [Doc. 15].
17, 2018, the Agency issued a fully favorable decision [Doc.
16-1], and on February 20, 2019, the Commissioner issued a
Notice of Award to the Plaintiff [Doc. 16-2]. The Notice of
Award explains that $24, 730.50, representing 25% of the
Plaintiff's back benefits, was being withheld from the
Plaintiff's back benefits to pay any award of
attorney's fees. [Id. at 4]. The Plaintiff and his
attorney had a contingency fee agreement pursuant to which
any attorney's fee award could not exceed 25 percent of
the past due benefits. [Doc. 14-2].
Plaintiff now seeks a total award of $13, 000.00 in fees
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1). [Doc. 16].
are two avenues by which a Social Security benefits claimant
may be awarded attorney's fees. First, claimants may seek
a fee award under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d) (EAJA), which provides that “a court
shall award to a prevailing party other than the United
States fees and other expenses ... incurred by that party in
any civil action (other than cases sounding in tort),
including proceedings for judicial review of agency action,
brought by or against the United States in any court having
jurisdiction of that action....” 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(A). Second, a claimant may seek an award pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), which provides that
“[w]henever a court renders a judgment favorable to a
claimant ... who was represented before the court by an
attorney, the court may determine and allow as part of its
judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in
excess of 25 percent of the total of the past-due benefits to
which the claimant is entitled by reason of such
judgment....” 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A).
attorney's fees may be awarded under both the EAJA and
§ 406(b), the Social Security Act requires that the
attorney must refund to the claimant the smaller fee.
“Thus, an EAJA award offsets an award under Section
406(b), so that the amount of the total past-due benefits the
claimant actually receives will be increased by the EAJA
award up to the point the claimant receives 100 percent of
the past-due benefits.” Stephens ex rel. R.E. v.
Astrue, 565 F.3d 131, 134-35 (4th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796
the Plaintiff and his counsel entered into a contingency fee
agreement by which the Plaintiff agreed to pay 25% of any
past due benefits awarded to his counsel. As the Fourth
Circuit has recognized, “§ 406(b) was designed to
control, not to displace, fee agreements between Social
Security benefits claimants and their counsel. As long as the
agreement does not call for a fee above the statutory ceiling
of twenty-five percent of awarded past-due benefits, ...
§ 406(b) simply instructs a court to review the
agreement for reasonableness.” Mudd v.
Barnhart, 418 F.3d 424, 428 (4th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation and citation omitted).
Court finds that the services rendered in this Court were
appropriate and reasonable to the relief sought, and the
contingency fee agreement executed by the Plaintiff and his
counsel is reasonable. Accordingly, the Plaintiff's
Motion for Attorney's Fees is granted.
IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED
the Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees under §
406(b) [Doc. 16] is hereby GRANTED, and an
award of attorney's fees in the amount of $13, 000.00