United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF
PLAINTIFF HAYK MURADYAN AND AGAINST DEFENDANT NANCY
BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
S. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Hayk Muradyan (“Plaintiff”), seeks judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) pursuant to
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. (Doc. 15). The
Commissioner filed an Opposition and a Cross-Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Doc.18). Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc.
19). The matter is currently before the Court on the
parties' briefs which were submitted without oral
argument to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States
Magistrate Judge. (See, Docs. 15, 18 and 19).
Upon a review of the entire record, the Court finds that the
ALJ did not apply the proper legal standards and the decision
is not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's appeal is GRANTED IN PART, and
Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18)
FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS 
applied for DIB and SSI due to cardiac disease and
degenerative disc disease on June 12, 2012, alleging
disability beginning January 1, 2012. AR 236-247. The parties
agree that the Plaintiff properly exhausted his
administrative remedies and that the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's appeal. Therefore, this appeal is a review of
Administrative Law Judge Sharon Madsen's
(“ALJ”) decision issued on August 28, 2014, which
is considered the Commissioner's final order.
See, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). AR
argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical
evidence because she improperly rejected Plaintiff's
treating physician's opinion. He also contends that the
ALJ improperly failed to incorporate several non-examining
physicians' limitations into the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) which if adopted, would have
precluded him from performing the jobs the ALJ identified.
Plaintiff requests that the Court award benefits, or
alternatively, that the case be remanded for further
proceedings. (Doc. 15, pgs. 6-13; Doc. 19, pgs. 3-5). The
Commissioner argues that the ALJ's evaluation of the
medical evidence was proper. Specifically, she contends the
ALJ properly rejected the treating physician's opinion.
Additionally, although the ALJ did not address some of the
limitations outlined in the non-examining physicians'
opinions, any error was harmless because Plaintiff can still
perform the jobs identified by the judge. (Doc. 18, pgs.
3-9). As such, the ALJ's decision should be affirmed.
Summary of the Medical Record
Court has reviewed the entire medical record. Relevant
portions of the record will be referenced in the discussion
where appropriate. AR 376-1207.
THE DISABILITY STANDARD
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
plaintiff must establish that he or 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 twelve 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.
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
achieve uniformity in the decision-making process, the
Commissioner has established a sequential five-step process
for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)-(f), 416.920(a)-(f). The ALJ
proceeds through the steps and stops upon reaching a
dispositive finding that the claimant is or is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The ALJ
must consider objective medical evidence and opinion
testimony. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527, 404.1529,
the ALJ is required to determine: (1) whether a claimant
engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of
alleged disability, (2) whether the claimant had
medically-determinable “severe” impairments, (3)
whether these impairments meet or are medically equivalent to
one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, (4) whether the claimant retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform his past relevant work, and (5) whether the claimant
had the ability to perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers at the regional and national level. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)-(f), 416.920(a)-(f).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
insured through December 31, 2016, and that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1,
2012, the alleged onset date. AR 22. At step two, the ALJ
identified cervical degenerative disc disease, lumbar
degenerative disc disease, coronary artery disease, angina,
hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, obesity, tobacco
use, and diabetic neuropathy as severe impairments. AR 22-23.
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listing impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404 P, Appendix 1. AR 20-21.
also determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform a
modified version of light work as defined in 20 CFR
§§ 404.1567(b) or 416.967(b). AR 21. Specifically,
the ALJ found Plaintiff could lift/carry up to twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently; he could sit, stand,
and walk for up to six hours in an eight hour work day; he
could occasionally reach overhead, stoop, kneel, climb,
crouch, and crawl; he could occasionally forcefully grasp or
grip; he could ...