The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Irene Burney ("Burney" or "plaintiff"), has brought
a motion for summary judgment seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner" or "defendant"), who denied Burney's claim for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security
Income ("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 1381a (2000). Defendant Barnhart filed a cross-motion for
summary judgment asking that we uphold the decision of the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). We have jurisdiction to hear
this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For
the following reasons, we grant plaintiff's motion and deny
defendant's motion, remanding this case to the ALJ for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Burney filed an application for DIB and SSI benefits on May 5,
2000, alleging a disability onset date of January 1,
1999.*fn1 (R. 368-70). Her application was denied initially
and after a timely request for reconsideration. (R. 359-66).
Thereafter, Burney requested, and was granted, a hearing before
an ALJ. (R. 367). On November 7, 2001, Burney testified at a
hearing conducted by ALJ John L. Mondi. (R. 79-110). ALJ Mondi
issued a written decision on June 14, 2002 denying Burney DIB and
SSI benefits. (R. 19-24). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review and ALJ Mondi's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner.*fn2 See Zurawski v. Halter,
245 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001); Reg. § 416.1481.
At the time of the hearing, Burney was forty-five years old.
(R. 82). She stood 5'11 and weighed 230 pounds. (R. 88). Burney
has a high school education and previous work experience as an assistant manager of a convenience
store and a receptionist. (82-85). Burney was an assistant
manager at a 7-11 store from 1986-1992. According to Burney, her
employment at 7-11 ended because the store closed and she "fell
on [her] head." (R. 94). The administrative record does not
contain conclusive evidence regarding her employment from
1992-1996. However, from 1997-1998, Burney worked as a
receptionist for Sullivan Personnel Services and Centurion
Services. (R. 377). From 1999-2000, after the alleged onset date
of her disability, Burney worked part-time for Centurion
Burney testified that she suffers from migraines that cause
blurred vision and slurred speech. (R. 86). She stated that at
the time of the hearing she had been having "more and more
migraine attacks . . . every couple of weeks, . . . for like
three or four days" at a time. (R. 96-97). Additionally, she
reported having dizzy spells, hip problems, and back problems.
(R. 86). She has trouble walking and occasionally uses a cane in
the summer time.*fn3 (R. 101). She uses the cane at home and
when she goes to the park to help her with balance. Id. She can
walk up to six blocks to the grocery store, but after three
blocks her "leg gives completely out." (R. 89). She stated that
she has great difficulty walking to the grocery store and has
fallen while walking there in the past. Id.
Save infrequent house guests, Burney has lived alone in an
apartment on the third floor of a building without an elevator
for the past 23 years. (R. 91, 103). She testified that there are
lots of days when she does not leave her apartment. (R. 103). When she is in her apartment, she cleans it and prepares three
meals per day. Id. For entertainment, Burney may read a couple
of paragraphs in a book and watch television. Id. Burney does
not use alcohol or drugs. (R. 93). She has very few friends and
has problems with daily social interactions. (R. 107).
As stated supra, the administrative record before us is
voluminous, but a majority of its contents are irrelevant to our
discussion. For purposes of this opinion, we are only concerned
with evidence in the record applicable to plaintiff's May 5, 2000
application for disability benefits. Such records include, inter
alia, the medical records of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Robert B. Wright; a consultative examination conducted by Dr.
Shital Shah; a physical RFC assessment from 2000; and a 2002
psychological evaluation from Dr. Mark B. Langgut.
Dr. Wright began treating plaintiff in February, 1993 and
continued to see her several times a year through 2001. (R.
247-53; 308-311; 457-94; 515-517). Since the alleged onset of her
disability, Burney visited Dr. Wright for symptoms including:
migraine headaches, blurred vision, dizzy spells, hypertension, a
semi-functioning left leg and general body numbness. (R.457-465).
Dr. Wright observed that Burney suffered from chronic headaches,
ranging from manageable to debilitating. (R. 308; 458). The
duration of her headaches ranged from a few times a month to a
period, lasting up to two weeks, when her headaches occurred at
least once a day. (R. 457). He prescribed Tylenol and Mylanta for
general pain, Midrin for migraine headaches, and Indiral for
complications caused by hypertension. Id. Additionally, Dr. Wright observed Burney's social behavior. (R.
460). He noted that she repeatedly failed to make eye contact
with him during their appointments. Burney told Dr. Wright that
she often had trouble "finding words." (R. 478). Dr. Wright also
documented Burney's rambling speech, which did not follow any
logical pattern (R. 460), and her frequent circuitous speech
patterns. (R. 460).
Dr. Langgut, a clinical psychologist, conducted two
consultative psychological evaluations of Burney in 1996 and
2002. (R. 312-317; 518-523). At each exam, Dr. Langgut performed
detailed psychological evaluations, including memory tests,
abstract reasoning tests and an IQ test. Id. He also made
general observations about her social behavior. Id. In the most
recent examination, he opined that Burney has areas of intact
intellectual ability and may be able "to learn new tasks,
synthesize novel information into existing cognitive schema, and
use insight and judgment to good advantage." (R. 512-22). When
testing her judgment and insight, Dr. Langgut ...