United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
J. Peck United States Magistrate Judge.
Carl Castagna, represented by counsel, brings this action
pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. (Dkt. No. 1: Compl.) Presently before the Court are
the parties' cross motions for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Dkt. No. 18: Castagna Notice
of Mot.; Dkt. No. 20: Comm'r Notice of Mot.) The parties
have consented to decision of the case by a United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt.
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion for
judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 20) is GRANTED
and Castagna's motion (Dkt. No. 18) is DENIED.
filed for benefits on April 13, 2011, alleging a disability
onset date of October 17, 2010. (Dkt. No. 15: Administrative
Record ("R.") 396-97.) The Social Security 2
Administration ("SSA") initially denied
Castagna's application. (R. 263-74.) On June 7, 2012,
Castagna, represented by counsel, had a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert Gonzalez.
(R. 177-223.) On August 13, 2012, ALJ Gonzalez issued a
decision denying Castagna's claim. (R. 231-46.) Upon
Castagna's request for review, the Appeals Council
remanded the case on September 20, 2013 for further
administrative proceedings. (R. 253-55.) A second hearing was
held before ALJ Gonzalez on February 7, 2014 (R. 144-76) and
continued on May 20, 2014 (R. 110-43). On December 11, 2014,
ALJ Gonzalez issued a written decision finding Castagna not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R.
71-97.) ALJ Gonzalez's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied Castagna's request for review on July 5, 2016. (R.
Evidence and Testimony
was born on November 24, 1966, making him almost 44 years old
at the time of his alleged disability onset. (R. 418.)
Castagna claims that he is disabled within the meaning of the
Act as a result of injuries sustained when he was struck by a
moving vehicle on October 17, 2010. (See R. 824-26.)
At that time, Castagna was employed as a police officer for
the Town of Mount Pleasant Police Department; he previously
was employed as a construction worker. (R. 463.) Castagna was
injured in the course of his duties as a police officer when
he responded to a disturbance, was struck by a moving
vehicle's side-mirror, spun around, and fell to the
ground, sustaining injuries to the hip and lower back. (R.
824-26.) Another officer fired into the moving vehicle that
had struck Castagna and killed the driver. (R. 831.) Castagna
alleges that several months after this incident, the Chief of
Police told him to "put [his] papers in and
retire." (R. 184.) Castagna testified that "a lot
of people" erroneously believe that he shot the driver,
and that these beliefs constitute a "big problem"
for him. (R. 202.)
testified that as a result of his injury, he experienced pain
in his left knee, both legs, lower back and neck. (R.
195-96.) Castagna testified that to manage his pain, he takes
pain medications "once or twice a week." (R.
152-53.) He also has received "trigger point
injections" and epidurals in order to help relieve his
neck and lower back pain, and testified at his February 7,
2014 hearing that the treatments help him out for "a
month or two." (R. 165.) Castagna further alleged at
this hearing that he experiences numbness in his right hand
when he extends his right arm, causing difficulty utilizing
that hand for things such as grabbing or typing. (R. 170.) He
noted that "[s]itting for a long period of time"
causes him to stiffen up, which is uncomfortable if he does
not get up to walk around. (R. 210-11.) As a result of his
injuries and the incident that led to them, Castagna
testified that he experiences panic attacks and flashbacks,
feels isolated, and purposefully avoids contact or
interaction with other people. (R. 203, 209-10.)
lives alone and "basically just take[s] care of
[him]self." (R. 193.) He shops, cooks, and cleans for
himself, and he visits his parents twice a day to socialize.
(R. 168-69.) He drives daily, and he still owns a motorcycle
that he last rode in 2013. (R. 169, 171.) Castagna visits the
gym to exercise "at least twice a week, "
performing military presses, leg extensions, and leg curls,
using weights of approximately 20 to 30 pounds. (R. 199-200.)
He is able to use the elliptical machines, but experiences
pain in the groin and hip area when he does so. (R. 200.) He
testified that he can go up and down the nine steps to get
into his house from the outside, but that it is a
"little bit uncomfortable." (R. 156-57.)
Castagna's May 2014 hearing, vocational expert Linda
Vause testified. (R. 121-41, 393-94.) Ms. Vause considered a
hypothetical person who is able to do sedentary work and
"frequently feel with the right upper extremity";
"frequently handle and finger with the bilateral upper
extremities"; "occasionally reach overhead with the
dominant right upper extremity"; 4 "frequently
reach over head with the left, non-dominant upper
extremity"; "occasionally crouch";
"frequently flex, extend and rotate the neck";
"occasionally interact with the supervisors, coworkers
and the public"; and who must avoid "working at
unprotected heights" and "police work." (R.
123-24.) Ms. Vause testified that this hypothetical
individual could perform the sedentary jobs of document
preparer, addresser, touch-up screener and ampoule sealer,
all of which exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. (R. 124-25.) She further stated that even a person
who could not reach overhead with one hand would not be
precluded from performing these jobs if he or she was able to
reach overhead with the other hand. (R. 126-27.)
Evidence Before ALJ Gonzalez
Gonzalez considered medical evidence from October 17, 2010,
the date of the alleged onset of Castagna's disability,
to December 11, 2014, the date of ALJ Gonzalez's
September 25, 2009, prior to the alleged disability onset
date, Castagna received surgery for an unrelated medial
meniscus tear in his left knee by Dr. Jeffrey Yormak, an
orthopedic surgeon at Northern Westchester Hospital. (R.
584-85.) After the operation, Castagna stated that he was
doing well, although running caused him to experience
"significant [left knee] pain the following day."
his on-the-job accident on October 17, 2010, Castagna was
admitted to 5 Westchester Medical Center for treatment, and
diagnosed with a "back strain" and a "hip
contusion" as a result of being struck by a vehicle. (R.
802.) Two days later, on October 19, Castagna visited Dr.
Yormak complaining of "severe low back pain"
extending into his left thigh, left knee, spine, neck, and
trapezials, as well as "occasional tingling to his right
neck, shoulder, and arm into his right pinky, ring, and
middle fingers." (R. 549.) Dr. Yormak observed that
Castagna appeared to be in "severe distress"
getting onto the examining table, and moved his lumbar spine
with "significant rigidity and stiffness." (R.
550.) Dr. Yormak noted mild bruising on the right hip and
"spasm and tenderness" in the musculature on the
right and left sides of his neck, concluding that Castagna
likely had suffered a "cervical/lumbar severe strain,
" and "possible lumbar disc bulge, herniation or
occult injury." (R. 550-51.) Dr. Yormak offered to
prescribe either opioids or benzodiazepines for pain
management, but Castagna refused such medications, and Dr.
Yormak prescribed Medrol and Skelaxin instead. (R. 551.)
returned to Dr. Yormak on November 4, 2010, complaining of
the same issues with pain and weakness; he claimed that the
prescribed medications had been largely ineffective and that
his symptoms had continued to keep him out of work. (R. 547.)
Dr. Yormak observed that Castagna had stiffness while moving
around, "extreme caution with moving his head, "
and "reluctance to utilize his right shoulder."
(Id.) The examination also showed that
Castagna's lumbar range of motion was "somewhat
restricted" and flexion, extension, and bending resulted
in discomfort. (Id.) Dr. Yormak noted that CT and
MRI scans revealed no spinal fracture, normal alignment, and
no acute disc herniations, as well as no definitive evidence
of fracture or tear of the right shoulder. (R. 547-48.) Dr.
Yormak instructed Castagna to attend physical therapy. (R.
the relevant time period, Castagna was seen by orthopedic
surgeon Dr. Richard Weinstein at Bone & Joint Associates
in White Plains. Castagna first saw Dr. Weinstein on November
11, 2010. (R. 680.) Dr. Weinstein noted reduced cervical and
thoracolumbar spinal range of motion, as well as decreased
left knee range of motion. (Id.) Upon examining
Castagna, Dr. Weinstein noted no sensory or motor deficits in
either his upper or lower extremities. (Id.)
Castagna was advised to attend physical therapy for his neck,
lower back, left knee, and right hip pain and tenderness.
next saw Dr. Weinstein on January 3, 2011, reporting pain in
similar sites (R. 679.) Dr. Weinstein noted that the affected
knee had swelling, "especially posteriorly."
(Id.) An MRI of the left knee indicated a grade 3
posterior tear of the medial meniscus, a grade 2 signal
within the lateral meniscus, joint effusion, and proximal
patella tendinosis. (R. 670-71.) A bilateral straight leg
raise test was negative. (R. 677.) A January 2011 MRI of
Castagna's right hip was normal. (R. 672.) A March 2011
MRI of Castagna's cervical spine showed a central disc
protrusion between the C5 and C6 vertebrae, and some
osteophyte formation. (R. 597, 673.) A June 2011 MRI of
Castagna's right shoulder showed mild acromioclavicular
arthropathy, mild subacromial subdeltoid bursitis, and a
probable SLAP tear (a tear of the labrum). (R. 702.)
light of these MRI results and "[m]inimal improvement
despite stretching and strengthening" exercises along
with chiropractic treatment, Dr. Weinstein opined in both
April 2011 and July 2011 that Castagna was unable to work at
that time, could not sit for long periods of time or do
significant lifting, and that he could not do light duty at
his present job due to the risk of injury. (R. 597, 666.)
Weinstein saw Castagna again on January 13, 2012, noting that
there continued to be slightly decreased range of motion in
Castagna's right shoulder and left knee, as well as
tenderness in the lateral retinaculum of the left knee. (R.
708.) Castagna had continued pain in his left knee, as well
as continued pain in the right shoulder, particularly with
overhead activities and lifting. (Id.) At June,
September, October and November 2012 follow up visits (R.
866, 887, 891, 899), Dr. Weinstein reiterated that Castagna
was not capable of working at the time, and that he could not
do any significant lifting with his right arm, use stairs
well, or run on his left knee (R. 887). In June 2012, Dr.
Weinstein also noted that Castagna would benefit from
continuing his exercise program at the gym for improving
range of motion and strengthening the affected areas, so long
as he avoids "excessive" weight lifting overhead.
(R. 866.) In November 2012, Dr. Weinstein stated that
Castagna had "[m]ild discomfort and limitation with
internal and external rotation" of the right shoulder,
and that he could not do "any significant lifting or
overhead use" of the right arm. (R. 899.)
January 24, 2013, Dr. Weinstein performed surgery on
Castagna's right shoulder, which included extensive
debridement, arthroscopic subacromial decompression, and
injection. (R. 995.) At follow up visits on March 13, 2013
and June 12, 2013, Dr. Weinstein noted that the surgery had
improved Castagna's range of motion in his shoulder and
had helped with his pain, but that Castagna still experienced
some weakness and pain in his neck and right arm. (R. 910,
919.) Castagna reported that physical therapy had improved
his symptoms and Dr. Weinstein advised him to continue with
the physical therapy. (Id.)
October 1, 2013, Dr. Weinstein completed a medical source
statement of ability to do work-related activities for the
SSA. (R. 951-56.) Dr. Weinstein stated that Castagna could
frequently lift and carry up to 20 pounds and occasionally
lift and carry up to 100 pounds. (R. 951.) Further, Dr.
Weinstein stated that in an eight hour work day, Castagna
could sit for one hour at a time (four hours total), stand
for two hours at a time (four hours total), and walk for one
hour at a time (two hours total). (R. 952.) Dr. Weinstein
concluded that Castagna could only occasionally reach with
his right arm, but could continuously handle, finger, feel,
push or pull with both arms. (R. 953.) Dr. Weinstein advised
that Castagna could never kneel, crouch or crawl, and only
occasionally was able to stoop or climb stairs and ladders.
(R. 954.) Dr. Weinstein identified no limitations on exposure
to unprotected heights or to moving mechanical parts or
operating a motor vehicle (R. 955), nor any limitations on
daily life activities such as shopping, caring for personal
hygiene, sorting or handling paper and files, or traveling
without the help of a companion (R. 956). Finally, Dr.
Weinstein stated that the above limitations have lasted, or
will continue to last, for twelve consecutive months.
next saw Dr. Weinstein on October 29, 2013. (R. 970-71.) Dr.
Weinstein reported that Castagna's right shoulder
strength was improving but that he still needed to avoid
using the right arm, especially overhead, and must limit use
of the left knee and avoid prolonged sitting or squatting.
(Id.) Dr. Weinstein made similar observations on
March 3, 2014. (R. 1038-39.) On April 1, 2014, Dr. Weinstein
stated that Castagna's shoulder may require surgery in
the future, but that he was still improving with physical
therapy. (R. 1042-43.)
had a MRI of his left shoulder on May 22, 2014, after
complaining of clicking, pain and locking in that shoulder.
(R. 1050, 1052.) The results showed mild acromioclavicular
arthropathy, a small glenohumeral joint effusion, a probable
SLAP tear, and a tear of the inferior labrum with adjacent
paralabral cysts. (R. 1050.) Dr. Weinstein noted that the
left shoulder injury was "causally related to the right
shoulder injury and right shoulder surgery, " but that
it was "secondary to [the] right shoulder problem."
(R. 1053.) Dr. Weinstein scheduled Castagna for left shoulder
surgery. (Id.) In November 2014, Dr. Weinstein again
opined that Castagna required left shoulder surgery for
subacronial decompression and labral repair on his left
shoulder; this procedure was not performed during the
relevant time period. (R. 1133.) Finally, Dr. Weinstein
concluded that as a result of the injuries to Castagna's
knee and both of his shoulders, Castagna was not able to
return to work as a police officer. (Id.)
last appointment with Dr. Weinstein during the relevant
period occurred on December 8, 2014. (R. 1145-46.) Dr.
Weinstein noted that Castagna had continued pain, quite sharp
at times, especially in the left knee, and clicking and
locking in his left shoulder. (R. 1145.) Dr. Weinstein again
recommended surgery for Castagna's left shoulder, and
concluded that the injury and symptoms in Castagna's left
shoulder were causally related to his right shoulder injury
as a result of overcompensating for an inability to use the
right shoulder and arm normally. (R. 1146.)
Syed Rahman, a physiatrist of back, neck and diagnostic
medicine with Bone & Joint Associates LLP, saw Castagna
on January 5, 2012, on referral from Dr. Weinstein. (R.
704-05.) Dr. Rahman noted that Castagna had been attending
physical therapy for three months, which had been helping,
but that he still was having "significant tightness
pain" in his neck and occasional numbness in his right
hand. (R. 704.) Dr. Rahman suggested Flexiril,  ibuprofen, a
back brace for comfort and stability, home exercises for
strength, and a trial of trigger point injections. (R. 705.)
Castagna elected to have the trigger point injection, which
Dr. Rahman performed on June 14, 2012. (R. 865.) Castagna
returned to Dr. Rahman on July 31, 2012 complaining of
returning pain in the neck and back, and that the trigger
point injection had helped at first but was losing its
effectiveness. (R. 867.) Dr. Rahman opined that
Castagna's pain emanated from cervical and lumbar
strains. (Id.) At the July 31, 2012 visit, Dr.
Rahman performed another trigger point injection to the right
shoulder. (R. 869.)
saw Dr. Rahman again in June, July and August 2013. (R.
923-29.) Dr. Rahman noted that Castagna reported the trigger
point injections as having "definitely helped" and
that, while still stiff, his back pain was
"tolerable." (R. 924.) Dr. Rahman noted that
prolonged standing and bending is "somewhat
painful" for Castagna. (R. 928.) Dr. Rahman's
suggestions included physical therapy, moist heat,
anti-inflammatories, and small doses of muscle relaxants. (R.
929.) In December 2013, Castagna went back to Dr. Rahman for
a follow-up after a cervical facet block. (R.
990-91.) Castagna reported that he was feeling
"more than 50% better" after the procedure and was
"[a]ble to move his neck [a] lot better." (R. 990.)
Dr. Rahman concluded, in December 2013 and again in March
2014, that Castagna suffers from a partial permanent
disability precluding him from returning to work as a police
officer. (R. 991, 1040-41.)
Sathish Modugu, a pain management specialist of the Sports
Spine & Treatment Center of Westchester, treated Castagna
between November 2010 and April 2011. (R. 611.) Dr. Modugu
referred Castagna for a cervical spine MRI on March 15, 2011,
which revealed straightening of the normal lordosis, a mild
circumferential disc bulge between the C3 and C4 vertebrae
flattening the thecal sac and mild right foraminal narrowing,
a disc protrusion with osteophyte between the C4 and C5
vertebrae causing moderate left neural foraminal narrowing,
and a central disc protrusion between the C5 and C6 vertebrae
mildly indenting the anterior aspect of the spinal cord. (R.
625.) On April 28, 2011, Dr. Modugu opined that Castagna
could stand and walk for up to six hours per day, and sit for
up to eight hours per day. (R. 614.) Dr. Modugu noted no
limitations on pushing or pulling, and opined that Castagna
had the ability to frequently carry 20 pounds and
occasionally carry 30 pounds. (R. 614-15.) Dr. Modugu stated
that it was "[t]oo early" to express an opinion on
Castagna's ability to return to work-related activities.
George Burak, an orthopedic surgeon, examined Castagna on
March 16, 2011. (R. 852-55.) Dr. Burak observed that
Castagna's range of cervical spine flexion, extension,
and rotation were normal, and that he was able to ambulate
with a normal gait. (R. 854.) Dr. Burak noted a mild
paravertebral muscle spasm and decreased range of motion in
Castagna's lumbar spine. (R. 855.) Dr. Burak concluded
that Castagna had a "marked partial disability"
primarily to his back, and could return to work in a light
duty capacity, but needed to avoid lifting anything above ten
pounds and avoid repetitive bending. (Id.)
November 2011, Dr. John Mazella, an orthopedic surgeon,
performed a consultative examination of Castagna. (R.
1002-12.) Dr. Mazella found no deformity of the lumbar or
cervical spine and normal range of motion in both. (R.
1009-10.) Dr. Mazella also found full range of motion and
strength in Castagna's right hip, and that the range of
motion in Castagna's left knee was comparable to that of
his right knee. (R. 1010.) Dr. Mazella's impression was
that Castagna had suffered a lumbar and cervical spinal
strain or sprain without radiculopathy. (R. 1011.) Dr.
Mazella also concluded that Castagna had a "[v]ery
mild" right shoulder impingement, his right hip strain
had been resolved, and the outcome of his left knee after the
2009 surgery was satisfactory. (Id.) Dr.
Mazella's opinion was that Castagna was "not
permanently disabled" and that his subjective complaints
were not supported by the medical findings. (Id.)
Dr. Mazella issued another report on August 30, 2013 (R.
998-1001), opining that Castagna could return to full
employment-related duties with continued physical therapy (R.
Ronald Mann, an orthopedic surgeon, performed an independent
medical examination of Castagna on January 18, 2012. (R.
711-16.) Dr. Mann concluded that Castagna's cervical
spine strain, right shoulder strain, and right hip strain
were resolved, and that his lumbar spine strain was still
resolving. (R. 715.) Dr. Mann observed normal range of motion
in the hips and right shoulder, with decreased range of
motion in the cervical and lumbar spine. (R. 713-14.) He
found no muscle spasm or atrophy in either the cervical or
lumbar spine. (Id.) Dr. Mann recommended
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories as treatment but did not
believe that Castagna's injuries required physical
therapy. (R. 715.)
Mann examined Castagna again in September 2012. (R. 876-81.)
He made similar findings but noted that Castagna had slightly
decreased range of motion in his right hip and right
shoulder. (R. 879.) In Dr. Mann's opinion, Castagna had a
moderate disability, but was capable of working so long as
restrictions were placed on prolonged walking, prolonged
standing, prolonged sitting, repetitive use of right arm,
grabbing, and no heavy lifting over 40 pounds. (Id.)
Although Dr. Mann believed that Castagna's condition
warranted further treatment, he still did not believe that
Castagna's injuries showed a need for physical therapy.
Weiss-Citrome, a specialist in physical medicine and
rehabilitation and a New York State certified acupuncturist,
conducted an independent examination of Castagna on August 7,
2013. (R. 930-35.) Dr. Weiss-Citrome noted that Castagna had
normal cervical spinal range of motion but that Castagna
complained of back pain during range of motion testing. (R.
933.) She also observed moderate tenderness and moderate
muscle spasm on palpation of the cervical paraspinal
musculature. (Id.) Further, she noted decreased
range of motion in the thoracolumbar spine, and moderate
tenderness and severe muscle spasm on the musculature. (R.
934.) Dr. Weiss-Citrome's conclusion was that Castagna
had a marked partial disability with the ability to work in a
sedentary job with no lifting over ten pounds and no overhead
work with the right arm. (R. 935.) She noted that his
prognosis for further recovery was poor. (Id.)
Michael McKeown, a chiropractic specialist, treated Castagna
two times a week between November 2010 and May 2011. (R.
618.) His clinical diagnoses were a sprain/strain of the
lumbar and cervical spine, lumbar radiculopathy, and lumbar
disc degeneration. (Id.) Dr. McKeown instructed, in
his May 2011 assessment of Castagna's limitations on use
of his upper extremities: "Do not pull
anything!" (R. 620.) Dr. McKeown's report
did not list any other functional limitations related to
was consultatively examined by Dr. Shariar Sotudeh, an
orthopedic surgeon, on September 4, 2013. (R. 938-40.) Dr.
Sotudeh concluded that there was functional impairment to
Castagna's right shoulder, right hip and left knee. (R.
939.) Dr. Sotudeh concluded that Castagna was limited from
"prolonged bending, squatting, standing, or walking,
" repetitive reaching above shoulder level, any pushing
or pulling, and heavy lifting or carrying over 30 pounds.
(Id.) Dr. Sotudeh did not note any restrictions on
Robert Michaels, an orthopedic surgeon, conducted independent
orthopedic examinations of Castagna on August 11, 2014 and
September 15, 2014. (R. 1098-100.) Castagna reported that his
pain levels on the Visual Analog Pain Scale were "3/10
to the neck, 5/10 to the back, 3/10 to the right shoulder,
3/10 to the right hip, 2/10 to the left knee and 3/10 to the
left shoulder." (R. 1098.) Dr. Michaels noted that
Castagna reported taking Tramadol for pain relief. (R.
1099.) Dr. Michaels' examinations of Castagna's
shoulders revealed tenderness with no swelling, ecchymosis or
erythema, and no rotator cuff weakness in either shoulder.
Michaels filed an addendum to this report on November 21,
2014, after reviewing the left shoulder MRI findings. (R.
1139-42.) Dr. Michaels concluded that the "tears"
indicated by the MRI were consequential and likely due to
normal degenerative changes. (R. 1141.) He concluded that it
would be "reasonable and appropriate" to order a
new left knee MRI, since the last one had taken place three
years prior. (R. 1142.)
saw Dr. Bradley Wiener, an orthopedic surgeon, on September
12, 2014 for a second opinion in evaluation of his symptoms.
(R. 1120-22.) Dr. Wiener noted discomfort on palpation of
Castagna's right shoulder, and restriction of internal
rotation and abduction of the left shoulder. (R. 1120.) Dr.
Wiener observed tenderness on palpation along the medial
joint line of the left knee, but no sign of swelling or
effusion. (R. 1120-21.) Dr. Wiener recommended that Castagna
undergo another surgery on his left knee, and also suggested
that a surgical procedure on the left shoulder might be a
good idea. (R. 1121.) Dr. Wiener's ultimate conclusion
was that, while he did not believe additional orthopedic
treatment would allow Castagna to return to full duty work
activities as a police officer, Castagna could perform
sedentary work activities. (Id.)
received psychiatric and psychological treatment from various
specialists for post-traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), anxiety and depression following the
on-duty altercation that led to his alleged disability. Dr.
Norman Weiss, who began treating Castagna in October 2010,
prepared a psychiatric report in July 2011, opining that
Castagna's feelings of "depression, poor sleep,
social isolation and a feeling of humiliation, derive . . .
from the treatment [Castagna] describes as having received
from his police department" related to the incident that
caused Castagna's injury. (R. 684; see page 2
27, 2011, Dr. Fredelyn Engelberg Damari, a psychologist,
conducted a consultative psychiatric examination of Castagna.
(R. 632-36.) Dr. Damari noted that Castagna's medications
included Metaxalone, Pantoprazole,  Zolpidem tartrate,
 bupropion,  and
paroxetine. (R. 632.) Dr. Damari observed
Castagna's mood as being "[d]ysthymic, " and
his affect "[d]ysphoric and anxious, " but that his
"manner of relating, social skills, and overall
presentation" were adequate, and that he was
"[c]oherent and goal directed." (R. 633.) Dr.
Damari further concluded that Castagna's attention,
concentration, memory skills, cognitive functioning, insight
and judgment were all intact and appropriate. (R. 634.) Dr.
Damari diagnosed Castagna with "[p]osttraumatic stress
disorder, chronic, " but concluded that his prognosis
for recovery was good if he continued to receive psychiatric
treatment. (R. 635.) Nevertheless, Castagna's
"stress-related problems . . . may significantly
interfere with [his] ability to function on a daily
Solomon Miskin conducted an independent psychiatric
examination of Castagna on January 31, 2012, and diagnosed
him with severe, chronic PTSD and moderate, chronic major
depressive disorder. (R. 722-24.) He opined that Castagna was
permanently disabled and could not go back to his job as a
police officer. (R. 724.)
Alain De La Chappelle conducted an independent medical
examination of Castagna on March 4, 2011, diagnosed him with
PTSD, and concluded that Castagna would be able to return to
work "on a part-time basis with light duties to minimize
stress." (R. 838-39.) Castagna also was seen by Dr.
Ronald Kaitz on June 16 and June 28, 2011. (R. 845-47.) Dr.
Kaitz found Castagna to be "anxious, depressed, and
frustrated, " and found that "[h]is insight and
judgement are impaired." (R. 846.) Dr. Kaitz opined that
Castagna is "chronically and persistently
disabled." (R. 847.)
consultant A. Herrick prepared a report on July 5, 2011
evaluating Castagna's residual functional capacity with
respect to work-related activities considering his mental
health limitations. (R. 657-59.) The report noted that
Castagna had reported, in his consultation with Dr. Damari,
"distressing recollections . . . problems with sleep . .
. [and symptoms] of depression and anxiety, " and that
his affect was "dysphoric and anxious." (R. 659.)
Herrick diagnosed chronic PTSD. (Id.) The medical
consultant opined that, while Castagna could no longer work
as a police officer, he had sufficient mental capacity
(including the ability to remember, concentrate, and interact
with others) to perform other general work-related tasks.
Gonzalez's 2014 Decision
December 11, 2014, ALJ Gonzalez denied Castagna's
application for benefits. (R. 71-97.) ALJ Gonzalez applied
the appropriate five step legal analysis. (R. 75-76.) First,
he found that Castagna "has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since October 17, 2010, the alleged onset
date." (R. 77.) Second, ALJ Gonzalez found that Castagna
had the "following severe impairments: left knee medial
meniscus tear, right shoulder impingement and SLAP tear,
right bicep tendonitis, left shoulder impingement and labrum
tear, cervical spine herniation, lumbar spine bulging discs,