United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION and ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.
Represented by counsel, Corliss Lynn Stewart ("plaintiff") has brought this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
II. Procedural History
The record reveals that on October 26, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability as of October 14, 2004. Plaintiff's application was denied, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on May 16, 2011, before ALJ Timothy M. McGuan. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 3, 2011. Plaintiff's request for review of this decision was denied by the Appeals Council on January 30, 2013. Thereafter, plaintiff timely filed this action seeking review of that denial. Doc. 1.
Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's motion is granted, and plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.
III. Summary of Administrative Transcript
A. Medical Evidence
The earliest treatment records in the file relate to plaintiff's total abdominal hysterectomy on October 15, 2004, which procedure plaintiff tolerated well. T. 185. Notes from this procedure incorporated an April 28, 2004 MRI of the lumbosacral spine, which found low grade degenerative changes and an otherwise negative study. T. 186. In September 2009, plaintiff reported pain in the abdomen which was described by a consulting physician as "unexplained right side pain." T. 358. An ultrasound showed no abnormalities, and chest X-rays were essentially normal. T. 359-60. In November 2009, Dr. Saleeb, a consulting examining physician noted that plaintiff's reported pain was not attributable to a left ovarian cyst, which was described as normal. T. 346, 348. On physical exam, plaintiff reported slight tenderness all over the lower abdomen, but no objective findings supported any underlying source for this pain. T. 347.
On March 9, 2007, in a typewritten note, Dr. Mehta determined that plaintiff was "medically fit to undergo her scheduled arthroscopic surgery of both knees" by Dr. Bax. T. 177. Plaintiff's physical examination that day was essentially normal, but range of motion in her knees was noted as moderately restricted with 2 crepitus. Id . Plaintiff underwent the double knee arthroscopy on March 14, 2007. T. 178-79. Dr. Bax noted that during this procedure, partial synovectomies were performed in both the left and right knees, and bucket handle tears were repaired in each knee. T. Id . Otherwise, the findings of the arthroscopy were essentially normal. Id . Dr. Bax followed up with plaintiff on March 20, 2007, on which date he noted that she "state[d] her right knee fe[lt] very good, the left knee [was] still giving her some pain." T. 196. Dr. Bax recommended physical therapy. Id.
In June 2009 plaintiff had an MRI of the left knee, which showed no evidence of a re-tear, degeneration of the residual body, moderate to advanced osteoarthritis, small joint effusion, and a small Baker's cyst. T. 367. A treatment note from June 18, 2009 indicates that plaintiff reported left knee pain; the right knee was "doing well." T. 197. Dr. Bax noted that an MRI from Dr. Mehta "show[ed] no evidence of re-tear lateral meniscectomy"; this MRI also showed that the residual body of the lateral meniscus degenerated; moderate to advanced osteoarthritis, lateral compartment; small joint effusion; and a small Baker's cyst. Id . Dr. Bax noted an essentially normal physical exam, but that plaintiff "walk[ed] with a good gait" and had a "valgus [oblique displacement of part of the limb away from the midline] knee." Id . Dr. Bax also noted "some mild joint space narrowing, medially, laterally and at the patellofemoral joint" in the left knee. T. 198. He recommended one further arthroscopy prior to total left knee replacement. T. 197. Plaintiff underwent the arthroscopy, and in follow-up on July 21, 2009, Dr. Bax noted that plaintiff was "comfortable" but now complaining of right knee pain. T. 199. X-rays that day showed no fractures or dislocations, but mild joint line spurring laterally. T. 199-200. Dr. Bax diagnosed probable chondromalacia (damage under the kneecap) and a possible meniscus tear. Id . He recommended another arthroscopy. T. 199.
A lumbar spine MRI conducted on September 24, 2009, revealed mild degenerative disc disease at the L4-5 level and a small right lateral disc herniation/protrusion which mildly narrowed the right neural foramen and slightly contacted the existing right L4 nerve root, with an associated annular tear and mild thecal sac effacement; small posterior disc bulging mildly effacing the thecal sac and both neural foramina; and no sublaxation. T. 202.
Dr. Mehta completed a disability screening form dated October 8, 2009, in which he noted that plaintiff was "very limited" in walking, standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, bending, and climbing, but not limited in seeing hearing, speaking, or using her hands. T. 203. Dr. Mehta also noted no evidence of limitations in any areas of mental functioning or limitations associated with addictive behavior. T. 203-04. His diagnosis was osteoarthritis of both knees with torn miniscus, hypertension, sleep apnea, and bilateral sciatica. T. 203. Medications were noted as Crestor, Motrin, and Lortab. Id . More specifically, Dr. Mehta opined that plaintiff was "unable to stand or walk for more than 2 hours." T. 204. Dr. Mehta stated that he had been treating plaintiff since November 2006. Id.
Plaintiff participated in a sleep study on November 7, 2009, at Mount St. Mary's Hospital. T. 208-33. This study revealed sleep efficiency was "upper normal at 93%, " normal sleep latency, no apneic events, and "[o]nly 2 hypopneic events." T. 208. The study assessed "significant snoring associated with ...