United States District Court, N.D. New York
ANNE L. CIRULLI, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
PLAINTIFF: ANNE L. CIRULLI, Pro se
DEFENDANT: HON. GRANT JAQUITH Acting United States Attorney
M. DEL COLLIANO, ESQ. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney
DECISION AND ORDER
E. PEEBLES CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Anne L. Cirulli, who is proceeding pro se, has
commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
seeking judicial review of an adverse determination by the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security.Plaintiff
challenges the agency's determination that she was not
disabled at the relevant times and thus ineligible to receive
disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act.
For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for
judgment on the pleadings is granted, the Acting
Commissioner's determination is affirmed, and
plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.
was born in July 1960, and at the time of her alleged
disability onset date of September 1, 2014, was fifty-four
years old. Administrative Transcript ("AT") 155.
Plaintiff is five feet, eight inches in height, weighs 190
pounds, and is right-hand dominant. AT 39, 196, 207.
Plaintiff graduated from high school and completed up to two
years of college course work and achieved a medical typist
certificate. AT 35-36, 341.
was involved in a motor vehicle accident on July 24, 2012,
resulting in an injury to her right knee. AT 213, 420, 444.
Following that accident, plaintiff sought treatment from her
general physician, Dr. Rosemary Deleo, who treated her with
oral medication, ordered physical therapy, and arranged for
magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") testing of the
knee. AT 420. The MRI testing revealed a medial meniscus tear
and a probable small lateral meniscus tear. AT 281. Plaintiff
was subsequently seen by Dr. Mark Aierstok, an orthopedic
surgeon with Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County, who
surgically repaired her meniscus on February 2, 2013. AT 41,
420. Plaintiff has been informed that she will need a total
right knee replacement in the future. AT 47, 420.
her accident, plaintiff also began to complain of moderate to
severe neck pain. AT 212, 420. MRI testing conducted of
plaintiff's cervical spine on October 28, 2012, revealed
some degenerative changes, a small bulge at ¶ 3-4 with
right foraminal stenosis but minimal impression on the
posterior cord, a mild bulge at ¶ 4-5 with some
foraminal stenosis but mild impression on the left posterior
cord, and disc narrowing at ¶ 5-6 and C6-7 with some
bulge/osteophytes and mild central and severe foraminal
stenosis. AT 282. The report of that MRI testing concluded
with the following impression:
Multilevel degenerative changes and stenosis. Compression of
the cord is very mild without myelomalacia. Equivocal for
recent bone trauma in the C7 posterior spinous process and C7
about 2006, plaintiff also began to experience lumbar back
pain. AT 347. MRI testing conducted on July 24, 2006,
revealed some bulging discs and the following impression:
Severe bilateral facet arthropathy from L3 to S1. Forminal
stenoses at ¶ 4-5 and L5-S1 and mild to moderate central
spinal stenosis at ¶ 4-5 are about the same as on the
AT 280. An x-ray of plaintiff's lumbosacral spine, taken
on April 2, 2015, revealed some degenerative changes with
Grade I spondylolisthesis of L4 over L5 and facet joint
arthropathy. AT 352.
addition to these conditions, plaintiff has now developed
difficulties with her left knee. Following attempts at less
invasive treatment, plaintiff underwent surgery by Dr.
Aierstok on April 15, 2015, to repair a medical meniscal
tear. AT 41, 360-61. Plaintiff is required to use a cane to
ambulate. AT 46. It has also been recommended that plaintiff
undergo a left knee replacement. AT 47. Plaintiff has been
administered cortisone injections for her left knee
condition, but has not experienced any relief from those
shots. AT 42. Plaintiff utilizes braces on both knees as
prescribed by Dr. Aierstok. AT 48. Plaintiff also complains
of arthritis in both hands, as well as in her lumbar and
cervical spine area, coupled with numbness and tingling from
her neck and back into her feet and hands. AT 52-53.
has received medical treatment for her various conditions
from several sources. Plaintiff's knee conditions have
been treated by Dr. Aierstok and Dr. Richard Dentico, also
with Orthopedic Associates, who has provided plaintiff with
steroid injections and a nerve block. AT 369-70, 374-75.
Plaintiff's lumbar spine condition has been treated by
Dr. Perkins, who states that plaintiff is a candidate for
spinal surgery. AT 433-37. Dr. Deleo, plaintiff's family
physician, has seen plaintiff for a variety of conditions. AT
382-403, 438-40. Plaintiff was also seen by Dr. Ze'er
Weitz in January 2015 for evaluation of her back and knee
pain, AT 298-99, and again by Dr. John Ioia at the Kingston
Well and Joint Center on April 3, 2013. AT 418-19. In his
report, Dr. Ioia, noted that "[u]ltimately joint
replacement will be considered but the patient is quite oyung
[sic] and healthy." AT 419.
addition to her physical conditions, plaintiff also suffers
from depression and anxiety. AT 42-43. Although she has been
prescribed Celexa and BuSpar for those conditions, plaintiff
has not undergone any specialized mental health treatment.
Id. Plaintiff states that those medications have
helped her with her mental health symptoms. Id.
has also been prescribed Mobic, Flexeril, and Percocet. AT
43, 45, 198, 341, 347-48. According to plaintiff, the
medications she takes cause her to experience dizziness and
drowsiness, and preclude her from driving. AT 45.
several years, plaintiff was employed as a medical
receptionist for River Radiology, located in Kingston, New
York. AT 38-39. In that position, she worked mostly in a
seated position and was required to carry some files and
medical records. AT 39. Plaintiff left her employment with
River Radiology following the motor vehicle accident and
became a co-owner of a pizzeria with her husband. AT 36-37,
46, 57. Since September 2014, however, plaintiff has had no
involvement in the operation of the business. AT 40, 197,
Proceedings Before the Agency
applied for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title
II of the Social Security Act on December 24, 2014. AT
155-56. In her application, plaintiff alleged a disability
onset date of July 24, 2012. Id. Plaintiff's
claim was initially denied on April 9, 2015. AT 73-83.
Thereafter, a hearing was conducted on June 24, 2016, before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert Gonzalez.
AT 32-72. Both plaintiff and a vocational expert testified at
the hearing. Id. ALJ Gonzalez subsequently issued a
written decision on July 25, 2016, in which he found that
plaintiff was not disabled at the relevant times and
therefore not entitled to the benefits sought. AT 14-31.
Id. The ALJ's opinion became a final
determination of the agency on October 18, 2016, upon the
denial by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
of plaintiff's request for review of the decision. AT
Proceedings in This Court
pro se, plaintiff commenced this action on December
12, 2016. Dkt. No. 1. On March 30, 2017, counsel for the
Acting Commissioner filed an administrative transcript of the
evidence and proceedings before the agency. Dkt. No. 12. With
the filing of plaintiff's brief on April 20, 2017, Dkt.
No. 15, and that on behalf of the ...