United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER REMANDING THE ACTION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR
OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(G) ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT
IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF GENEVIEVE MIRANDA AND AGAINST DEFENDANT
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Miranda asserts she is entitled to a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the decision
denying her application for benefits, asserting the
administrative law judge erred in evaluating the record,
including the credibility of her subjective complaints.
Because the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal standards,
the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed applications for benefits on September 27, 2012, in
which she alleged disability beginning June 18, 2012. (Doc.
9-3 at 13) The Social Security Administration denied the
applications at the initial level and upon reconsideration.
(Id.; Doc. 9-5 at 2-11) Plaintiff requested a
hearing, and testified before an ALJ on September 8, 2014.
(Doc. 9-3 at 13) The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act, and issued an order
denying benefits on October 3, 2014. (Id. at 14-20)
Plaintiff filed a request for review of the decision with the
Appeals Council, which denied the request on February 9,
2016. (Id. at 2-4) Therefore, the ALJ's
determination became the final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security.
courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability
claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits
under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of
fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the
claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the
proper legal standards were applied and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510
(9th Cir. 1987).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as
a whole must be considered, because “[t]he court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.” Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985).
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff
must establish she is unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to
have a disability only if:
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The burden of proof is on a
claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). If a claimant
establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to
engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounis
v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).
achieve uniform decisions, the Commissioner established a
sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's
alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920(a)-(f). The process requires the ALJ to determine
whether Plaintiff (1) engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the period of alleged disability, (2) had medically
determinable severe impairments (3) that met or equaled one
of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether Plaintiff (4) had the
residual functional capacity to perform to past relevant work
or (5) the ability to perform other work existing in
significant numbers at the state and national level.
Id. The ALJ must consider testimonial and objective
medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527, 416.927.
Relevant Medical Evidence
January 2011, Plaintiff was working as a teacher's aide.
(Doc. 9-8 at 4) Plaintiff had a “fast heartbeat while
sitting” and reported that she thought she had anxiety.
(Id.) She was diagnosed with atherosclerotic heart
disease, angina, diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.
(Id. at 7)
February 2011, Plaintiff had a cardiac stress test,
ultrasound, and echocardiographic report. (Doc. 9-8 at 9-11)
Dr. Reddy found “no reversible or fixed perfusion
defect, ” and Plaintiff's heart had “a normal
left ventricular chamber size, all thickness, and wall
motion.” (Id. at 9) Dr. Reddy also found the
ultrasound results were normal. (Id. at 10) However,
with the echocardiographic report, Dr. Reddy found Plaintiff
had “[m]ild concentric left ventricular
hypertrophy.” (Id. at 11)
Reddy again administered a cardiac treadmill stress test a
year later, in February 2012. (Doc. 9-8 at 22) Dr. Reddy
found the results were normal, and “reveal[ed] no
reversible or fixed perfusion defect.” (Id.)
April 2012, Plaintiff described having “many years of
dysesthesia in the lower extremities” to Dr. Yao Lin.
(Doc. 9-8 at 31) She reported that she had “a burning
pain” in the plantar region of her feet, which was
“associated with [a] similar symptom in the lateral
forelegs.” (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff
complained of pain in her lower back, which was not
associated with muscle spasms or weakness. (Id.) Dr.
Lin found Plaintiff had “5/5 strength in all four
extremities, ” but her reflexes were “1/4 in ...