The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
The plaintiff, Richard Rooney ("Rooney"), commenced this
action pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(the "Act"), seeking review of a final administrative
determination of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying his application for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. In particular,
Rooney challenges the Commissioner's finding that he was not
"disabled" as that term is defined in the Act. At issue are the
cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
On December 30, 1997, Rooney filed an application for Social
Security Disability Insurance benefits. His application was
denied, both initially on March 11, 1998, and on reconsideration
on June 10, 1998. Rooney's request for an administrative hearing
was granted. The hearing was held on February 22, 1999 before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The
ALJ found that Rooney was not entitled to disability insurance
because his injuries did not rise to the level of a disability
within the meaning of the Act. In particular, the ALJ determined
that Rooney could perform sedentary work. On March 21, 2000, the
Appeals Council denied Rooney's request for review. He commenced
this action on December 22, 2000, seeking a review of the
(i) The Plaintiffs Testimony at the Hearing
Rooney was born on June 7, 1950 and is now 51 years of age. He
possesses a High School Equivalency Certificate. Rooney was
employed by the New York City Department of Sanitation for
twenty-three years. During that time, he rode on the back of a
sanitation truck and performed both cleaning and collection
On September 25, 1991, Rooney stepped into a water-filled
pothole while he was working. He suffered severe pain in his
left knee and was unable to return to his duties as a sanitation
worker. At the hearing, Rooney said that his doctor prescribed a
knee brace, which he wears while walking and driving. He was
wearing the brace at the hearing.
It appears from the record that Rooney did not work at all for
the two-to-three years following his accident. Thereafter, the
Department of Sanitation placed him on light duty, which
entailed answering the phones. Rooney testified that he could
not perform this work either, because sitting for long periods
of time caused his knee to throb. He also stated that the act of
rising from his chair and walking to find people to pick up the
phone was very painful. He claimed that when he stands up, his
knee "slips and slides." Rooney further stated that he feared
slipping on the oil and grease that was on the floor at work.
Accordingly, on an unspecified date, Rooney discontinued
performing light duty at the Department of Sanitation. Rooney
explained that he spends his days on the first floor of his
house where he reads, watches TV, and rests in bed.
According to Rooney, the pain in his left knee has caused him
to place more of his weight on the right leg, which has caused
pain in the right knee. He claimed that the limping has caused
him to be "out of alignment," which has caused his back to hurt.
Rooney said that doctors have operated on his left knee twice,
but the condition of the knee has not improved. Rooney further
stated that a doctor discussed the possibility of a total knee
replacement. However, Rooney has thus far refused such an
operation, because he fears that his body will reject the
artificial joint, and he does not want to have the joint
replaced every 10 years.
Rooney stated that he had been receiving Accident Disability
Retirement benefits since approximately June, 1995. Although the
record is vague as to the source of these disability benefits,
it appears that they originate from the New York City Department
(ii) The Medical Evidence
Rooney was initially seen by Dr. Barry Fisher, an orthopedist,
who recommended a magnetic resonance imaging scan ("MRI") of
Rooney's left knee. The MRI scan was performed on November 5,
1991, and it showed that Rooney had sustained a Grade 3 tear of
the posterior horn of the medial meniscus. Although the record
is unclear as to the precise date, at some point between
November 5, 1991, and September 9, 1992, Dr. Fisher performed an
arthroscopic evaluation of Rooney's knee.
(b) Dr. Mitchell Goldstein
On September 9, 1992, Rooney was seen by Dr. Mitchell
Goldstein ("Dr. Goldstein"), who is an orthopedist specializing
in sports medicine. In Dr. Goldstein's note from that initial
visit, he wrote that Rooney had been out of work since the date
of the accident, and that despite the arthroscopy, Rooney
continued to experience joint pain and stiffness, locking and
clicking sensations, and difficulty squatting, walking, and
holding his one-year-old child. Dr. Goldstein observed mild genu
varum, posterior medial joint line tenderness, and
three-quarters of an inch of atrophy in the left knee when it
was compared to the right knee. Dr. Goldstein also noted a
positive Apley grind test and recommended a follow-up MRI and
extensive formal physical therapy. He discussed with Rooney the
possibility of another arthroscopic evaluation.
On September 30, 1992, Rooney underwent a second MRI scan. The
results of the scan showed a torn medial meniscus and a possible
tear of the anterior cruciate ligament ("ACL").
Rooney saw Dr. Goldstein on October 14, 1992, and again on
November 11, 1992. During both visits, Dr. Goldstein noted that
Rooney continued to experience pain in his left knee and
difficulty walking. Rooney also had a positive Apley grind test.
Although Dr. Goldstein and Rooney discussed the surgical
options, Rooney continued non-surgical management.
On February 2, 1993, Dr. Goldstein wrote a treatment note
stating that Rooney's left knee was still causing him pain. Dr.
Goldstein also wrote that Rooney was experiencing locking and
buckling sensations in his left knee. The Apley grind and
McMurray tests were both positive. Dr. Goldstein recommended
that Rooney undergo a second arthroscopic evaluation.
Rooney saw Dr. Goldstein again on May 12, 1993, and the doctor
noted that his patient continued to have pain in his left knee
and difficulty walking. Dr. Goldstein discussed the upcoming
surgical procedure with Rooney.
On May 17, 1993, Dr. Goldstein performed a left knee
arthroscopy, partial medial meniscectomy, and chondroplasty of
the medial femoral condyle and the medial tibial plateau. The
postoperative diagnosis was internal derangement of the left
knee, a torn medial meniscus, and chondral lesions of the medial
tibial plateau and femoral condyle.
During the June 16, 1993 follow-up visit with Dr. Goldstein,
Rooney said that he had the same pain and buckling in his left
knee and the same difficulty walking and squatting as he did
before the operation. Dr. Goldstein noted that Rooney was
wearing an ACL brace and had an antalgic gait. The doctor
recommended that Rooney continue physical therapy.
From July 21, 1993 through June 28, 1995, Rooney saw Dr.
Goldstein ten times. Each of the ten treatment notes states that
Rooney continued to complain about pain and buckling in his left
knee as well as difficulty walking, bending, and rising from a
seated position. Dr. Goldstein recommended physical therapy at
each of the visits. The record does not specifically indicate
that Rooney underwent the recommended physical therapy. However,
Dr. Goldstein's notes state that Rooney "continue with his
therapy program," which statement indicates that Rooney told Dr.
Goldstein that he was following the prescribed physical therapy
Following a November 2, 1994 visit, Dr. Goldstein concluded,
"Due to persistent symptoms, [Rooney] still remains permanently
disabled from his job." In his March 1, 1995 treatment note, Dr.
Goldstein opined that Rooney "is still unable to work because of
this." Then, after a June 28, 1995 visit, Dr. Goldstein
reiterated his finding that "[d]ue to persistent symptoms,
patient is still disabled from his job."
Dr. Goldstein did not see Rooney again until March 1, 1999.
During the examination on that date, the doctor observed that
Rooney displayed three-quarters of an inch of atrophy in his
left quadriceps; a positive Apley grind test; retropatellar
tenderness; pain with sitting; medial and lateral joint line
tenderness; a negative Lachman and anterior drawer test; range
of motion of zero to 110 degrees; an antalgic gait; and an
inability to squat past 60 degrees. An X-ray performed on the
left knee revealed "mild tricompartmental arthritis with slight
spurring, particularly the tibial spine and the medial aspect
lateral femoral condyle."
Dr. Goldstein also observed that Rooney's right knee exhibited
mild joint line tenderness and retropatellar tenderness;
negative Apley grind, Lachman, and anterior drawer tests; and a
range of motion of zero to 130 degrees. The doctor further noted
that Rooney's spine was slightly tender.
Dr. Goldstein concluded that Rooney had osteoarthritis of the
left knee that had caused permanent loss of range of motion and
functional difficulties including sitting, standing, carrying,
walking, and going up and down stairs. The doctor stated that at
some point in the future, Rooney will require a total knee
replacement. He further opined that the injury to Rooney's left
knee and the ...