United States District Court, W.D. New York
W. PAYSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jan Huyck ("Huyck") brings this action pursuant to
Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the
"Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the "Commissioner") denying her
applications for Supplemental Security Income Benefits and
Disability Insurance Benefits ("SSI/DIB"). Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the
disposition of this case by a United States magistrate judge.
(Docket # 7).
before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on
the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (Docket ## 10, 14). For the reasons set
forth below, this Court finds that the decision of the
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the
record and complies with applicable legal standards.
Accordingly, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on
the pleadings is granted, and Huyck's motion for judgment
on the pleadings is denied.
protectively filed for SSI/DIB on February 15, 2013, alleging
disability beginning on December 31, 2009, due to pain and
limited mobility in both knees, obesity, borderline diabetes,
breathing problems, depression, fits of rage, back pain, high
blood pressure, high cholesterol, dizziness, and
gastroesophageal reflux disorder ("GERD"). (Tr.
151-58, 166, 171). On May 13, 2013, the Social Security
Administration denied Huyck's claim for benefits, finding
that she was not disabled. (Tr. 91-92). Huyck requested and
was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Jennifer Gale
Smith (the "ALJ"). (Tr. 99, 119-24). The ALJ
conducted a hearing on September 30, 2014. (Tr. 42-70). In a
decision dated January 30, 2015, the ALJ found that Huyck was
not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 19-38).
April 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Huyck's
request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 2-5).
Huyck commenced this action on May 23, 2016, seeking review
of the Commissioner's decision. (Docket # 1).
Relevant Medical Evidence 
record suggests that Huyck did not receive any medical
treatment for several years prior to her applications for
benefits. (Tr. 168). According to Huyck, although she
suffered from several ailments, she had been unable to afford
treatment. (Tr. 177). In connection with her applications,
Huyck explained that she had recently applied for Medicaid.
March 29, 2013, imaging of Huyck's lumbar spine was
conducted at the request of her primary care physician,
Subodh Debnath ("Debnath"), MD, due to Huyck's
complaints of chronic low back pain. (Tr. 240). The imaging
demonstrated mild L5-S1 bilateral facet arthrosis with no
notable disc space narrowing. (Id.). The SI joints
demonstrated mild degeneration. (Id.). The
radiologist assessed intact vertebra, spondylosis and
recommended an MRI if disc herniation was a concern.
April 5, 2013, Huyck attended an appointment with Kenneth
Wrigley ("Wrigley"), PA, at Fingerlakes
Orthopedics. (Tr. 291-93). Huyck indicated that she had been
experiencing bilateral knee pain for several years and had
not had recent imaging of her knees. (Id.). She
rated her pain as five on a ten-point scale. (Id.).
Huyck reported that she was unable to take NSAIDS due to her
GERD and that she took Tylenol with little relief.
(Id.). She indicated that she experienced diffuse
pain in both knees, with worse pain in her right knee.
(Id.). According to Huyck, she had difficulty
navigating stairs and experienced some swelling in her knees.
(Id.). Upon examination of her right knee, Wrigley
noted small effusion, diffuse pain to palpation, quad
strength of four out of five, no instability or thigh or
groin pain with hip rotation, and a negative anterior drawer
sign. (Id.). Examination of the left knee indicated
similar results, although her quad strength was only three
out of five. (Id.).
of her right knee demonstrated mild medial joint line
narrowing and mild arthritis. (Id.). Imaging of her
left knee was essentially normal. (Id.). Wrigley
assessed bilateral knee pain with right mild degenerative
joint disease. (Id.). He recommended that Huyck
participate in physical therapy for strengthening and noted
that Huyck was unable to take NSAIDS and unwilling to receive
a cortisone injection. (Id.). He instructed her to
return in six weeks. (Id.). Treatment notes from
physical therapy indicated that Huyck was seen for an initial
evaluation and attended two subsequent sessions. (Tr. 304).
Following her session on April 18, 2013, Huyck did not return
for further therapy and was discontinued from the program.
April 10, 2013, Huyck was examined by state consultant Frank
Norsky ("Norsky"), MD. (Tr. 250-55). She reported
that her chief complaint was chronic pain in both knee
joints, especially in her right knee. (Id.). Huyck
indicated that her pain was aggravated by weight-bearing
activities, including walking, standing, and climbing stairs.
(Id.). She reported that she was only able to walk
approximately one block at a time and could stand in one
position for no more than thirty minutes. (Id.).
According to Huyck, she needed to rest halfway up a flight of
stairs. (Id.). Huyck also reported suffering from
hypertension, anxiety, depression, obesity, and GERD.
examination, Huyck presented in no acute distress.
(Id.). She had normal range of motion in her upper
extremities and normal hand grip bilaterally. (Id.).
Huyck was morbidly obese, but did not display any deformity
of the lumbar spine, and her range of motion in her lumbar
spine was normal. (Id.). Norsky observed tenderness
to palpation in both knees, but Huyck's knees exhibited
no heat or palpable intraarticular effusion, and her range of
motion was normal. (Id.). Norsky also noted
significant cyanosis of Huyck's feet, and palpation of
her dorsalis pedis artery did not reveal any pulsation.
assessed that Huyck suffered from morbid obesity, chronic
knee pain due to osteoarthritis and obesity, mild chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, and a history of anxiety and
depression. (Id.). According to Norsky, Huyck's
prognosis for gainful physical employment was poor unless she
underwent bariatric surgery and successfully lost weight.
17, 2013, Huyck returned for a follow-up appointment with
Wrigley. (Tr. 294-96). She reported continued pain in her
knees and that she had attended physical therapy, which had
increased her pain. (Id.). According to Huyck, heat
also increased her pain, and she continued to perform a home
exercise program. (Id.).
examination, Wrigley apparently observed no range of motion
in Huyck's knees, with greater pain in the right knee.
(Id.). Huyck's quad strength was five out of
five, and she was able to ambulate without a limp.
(Id.). Wrigley assessed bilateral knee pain and mild
degenerative joint disease in the right knee. (Id.).
He opined that Huyck benefited from physical therapy and a
home exercise program and noted that she continued to refuse
cortisone injections for her right knee. (Id.).
Wrigley did not believe an MRI was indicated and advised her
to follow up as necessary. (Id.).
17, 2013, Huyck attended her first appointment with Sean
Stryker ("Stryker"), MD, at Orchard Family Health
Care. (Tr. 326-27). She complained of ongoing severe knee
pain bilaterally. (Id.). Huyck indicated that she
believed that she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and that
her previous physician would not treat her knee pain unless
she had bariatric surgery to address her obesity.
(Id.). Stryker assessed that Huyck suffered from
bilateral knee pain, osteoarthritis of the knee, morbid
obesity, tobacco dependence, hypertension, hyperlipidemia,
and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. (Id.). He ordered
comprehensive bloodwork. (Id).
August 1, 2013, Huyck returned for another appointment with
Stryker. (Tr. 328-29). She did not complain of any pain, but
reported experiencing anxiety. (Id.). Stryker
assessed generalized anxiety and recommended that she
continue her current treatment regimen. (Id.).
23, 2014, Huyck returned for an appointment with Janet Martin
("Martin"), NP, at Fingerlakes Orthopedics. (Tr.
306-07). Huyck presented with ongoing knee pain, but reported
some improvement with the use of a brace on her right knee.
(Id.). She also reported that her primary care
physician had ordered an MRI, but she was waiting to find out
whether her insurance would cover it. (Id.). During
the appointment, Huyck was fully weight-bearing, but reported
instability, difficulty driving, increased effusion, and
inability to bend. (Id.).
reported that her pain was moderate and had increased over
the last ten years. (Id.). Her medical history was
negative for osteoarthritis and gout. (Id.).
According to Huyck, she wore a knee sleeve and experienced
right ankle pain when driving. (Id.). She reported
difficulty rising from a seated position and indicated that
she had purchased a raised toilet seat for her home.
(Id.). Huyck reported that she could not take NSAIDS
due to GERD and had a prescription for Tramadol, but had not
yet taken any. (Id.). Huyck indicated that physical
therapy had aggravated her pain, but she was not interested
in a cortisone injection. (Id).
examination, Martin noted tenderness of the right knee to
palpation of the medial joint line. (Id.). Imaging
demonstrated maintained joint space and no patella-femoral
arthritis. (Id.). Martin assessed knee pain due to
internal derangement of the right knee. (Id.). She
recommended cortisone injections, NSAIDS, and physical
therapy, but Huyck declined those treatments. (Id.).
On October 14, 2014, Martin declined the ALJ's request
that she complete a medical source statement relating to
Huyck. (Tr. 310-18). According to Martin, she had only
treated Huyck on one occasion and Huyck had refused the
recommended treatments of physical therapy and injections.
apparently began receiving treatment from Albert Devlin
("Devlin"), DO, in February 2014. (Tr. 283).
Although Devlin's treatment records are not part of the
record, he submitted two medical source statements opining on
Huyck's physical limitations, and the record suggests
that he referred Huyck for mental health treatment relating
to her anxiety and depression. (Tr. 283-89, 319-25, 332).
opinion dated September 11, 2014, Devlin indicated that he
had been treating Huyck for approximately seven months. (Tr.
283-89). Devlin apparently observed that Huyck suffered from
decreased range of motion in her back and right lower
extremity and that she walked with a limp. (Id.). He
apparently reviewed MRIs of her right knee and assessed that
she suffered from internal derangement. (Id.). He
also appears to have viewed an MRI of her lumbar spine.
opined that Huyck was able to lift up to twenty pounds
occasionally, but was unable to carry any weight.
(Id.). According to Devlin, Huyck could sit, stand,
and walk for approximately fifteen minutes at a time and
could stand and walk for approximately fifteen minutes over
the course of a workday. (Id.). He also believed
that she was capable of sitting for up to three hours per
day. (Id.). Devlin opined that Huyck required a cane
to ambulate and could walk only approximately fifty steps
without the use of her cane. (Id.). He did not
believe that she could use her free hand to carry any small
objects when ambulating with her cane. (Id.).
to Devlin, Huyck did not suffer from reaching or handling
limitations in her left hand, but was unable to reach
overhead or push and pull with her right hand.
(Id.). Additionally, he opined that she was unable
to operate foot controls with her right foot, but could
frequently operate controls with her left foot.
(Id.). Devlin opined that due to neck and right knee
ailments, Huyck was unable to climb stairs, ramps, ladders or
scaffolds, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl.
(Id.). He also opined that Huyck should avoid
certain environmental conditions, including unprotected
heights, moving mechanical parts, operating motor vehicles,
humidity, wetness, dust, odors, fumes, and pulmonary
irritants. (Id.). Devlin indicated that Huyck was
able to shop, travel alone, and sort, handle and use paper
files, but was unable to use public transportation, walk a
block at a reasonable pace, climb steps at a reasonable pace,
prepare simple meals, or care for her own personal hygiene.
(Id.). In a report dated October 23, 2014, Devlin
assessed the same limitations. (Tr. 319-25).
applications for benefits, Huyck reported that she was born
in 1969. (Tr. 166). According to Huyck, she completed the
ninth grade and had previously worked as a cashier, assistant
manager of a retail store, a caretaker, and a customer
service representative. (Tr. 173). Huyck reported that she
lived with her family, and spent the ...