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Castagna v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 20, 2017

CARL CASTAGNA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Andrew J. Peck United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff 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. No. 14.)

         For the 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.

         FACTS

         Procedural Background

         Castagna 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. 1-4.)

         Non-Medical Evidence and Testimony

         Castagna 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.)

         Castagna 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.)

         Castagna 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.)

         At 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.)

         Medical Evidence Before ALJ Gonzalez

         ALJ 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 decision.[1]

         Dr. Jeffrey Yormak

         On 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." (R. 559.)

         Following 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[2] and Skelaxin[3] instead. (R. 551.)

         Castagna 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. 548.)

         Dr. Richard Weinstein

         Throughout 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. (Id.)

         Castagna 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.)[4] 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.)

         In 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.)

         Dr. 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.)

         On 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.)

         On 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. (Id.)

         Castagna 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.)

         Castagna 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.)

         Castagna's 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.)

         Dr. Syed Rahman

         Dr. 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, [5] 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.[6] (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.)

         Castagna 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.)[7] 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.)

         Dr. Sathish Modugu

         Dr. 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. (R. 615.)

         Dr. George Burak

         Dr. 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.)

         Dr. John Mazella

         In 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. 1000).

         Dr. Ronald Mann

         Dr. 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.)

         Dr. 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. (Id.)

         Dr. Amy Weiss-Citrome

         Dr. Amy 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.)

         Dr. Michael McKeown

         Dr. 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 Castagna's injuries.

         Dr. Shariar Sotudeh

         Castagna 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 sitting. (Id.)

         Dr. Robert Michaels

         Dr. 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[8] 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. (Id.)

         Dr. 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.)

         Dr. Bradley Wiener

         Castagna 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.)

         Psychiatric Evaluations

         Castagna 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 above.)

         On June 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, [9] Zolpidem tartrate, [10] bupropion, [11] and paroxetine.[12] (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 basis." (Id.)

         Dr. 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.)

         Dr. 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.)

         Medical 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. (Id.)

         ALJ Gonzalez's 2014 Decision[13]

         On 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, ...


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