United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tatiana Sharonova ("plaintiff or "Ms.
Sharonova") has filed a motion for summary judgment
seeking reversal or remand of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner")
denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") (doc. # 17: pl'.s Mot. for Sum. J.).
The Commissioner has filed her own motion seeking affirmance
of the decision denying benefits (doc. # 24: Def.'s Mot.
for Sum. J.). For the following reasons, Ms. Sharonova's
motion for remand is granted and the Commissioner's
motion is denied.
November 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed a claim for DIB, claiming
that she became disabled on August 15, 2010 because of
depression, migraine headaches, anxiety, and insomnia (R.
143, 163). Her claim was denied initially on February 23,
2012 and on appeal on July 9, 2012 (R. 79-80). Ms. Sharonova,
represented by counsel, participated in a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on July 11, 2013;
a medical expert ("ME") and vocational expert
("VE") also testified (R. 29). On February 28,
2014, ALJ Sylke Merchan issued an opinion finding that
plaintiff was not disabled (R. 12-23). The Appeals Council
upheld the ALJ's determination, making it the final
opinion of the Commission (R. 1-3). See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981; Shauger v. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 695
(7th Cir. 2012).
Sharonova was born on August 28, 1956; she was almost 54
years old on her alleged disability onset date (R. 143). Her
date last insured is December 31, 2014 (R. 79), and so to be
eligible for benefits, she must demonstrate that she became
disabled prior to that date. Pepper v. Colvin, 712
F.3d 351, 369 (7th Cir. 2013). The medical record is
voluminous, representing extensive visits by plaintiff to a
number of doctors for treatment of headaches, depression, and
opinion, the ALJ followed the familiar five-step process for
determining disability, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)
and 416.920(a). She found that Ms. Sharonova's severe
impairments were major depressive disorder, anxiety, and
migraine headaches, but that none of these impairments, alone
or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment (R. 14, 15). The ALJ set Ms.
Sharonova's residual functional capacity
("RFC") as the ability to perform "a full
range of work at all exertional levels, but with the
non-exertional limitations to avoid concentrated exposure to
noise and vibrations; only simple, routine, repetitive tasks;
no fast-paced production requirements; only simple
work-related decision making; few if any changes in work
setting; no public contact; and only occasional contact with
supervisors and co-workers (R. 17). At Step Four, the ALJ
found that Ms. Sharonova was unable to perform her past
relevant work because her past work as a real estate agent
was semi-skilled and plaintiffs current RFC was for unskilled
work. At Step Five, the ALJ found that Ms. Sharonova was
closely approaching advanced age but that she was not
disabled according to the Medical-Vocational Rules ("the
Grid"), regardless of whether or not she had
transferable skills, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
2 (R. 22). Given this analysis, there were a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that plaintiff could
will review the ALJ's decision deferentially, and will
affirm if it is supported by substantial evidence."
Decker v. Colvin, No. 13 C 1732, 2014 WL 6612886 at
*9 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 18, 2014). Substantial evidence is
"relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Alevras v.
Colvin, No. 13 C 8409, 2015 WL 2149480 at *4 (NX). Ill.
May 6, 2015) (Schenkier, J.). The court will not
reweigh evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of
the ALJ. Decker, 2014 WL 6612886 at *9. In rendering
a decision, the ALJ "must build a logical bridge from
the evidence to his conclusion, but he need not provide a
complete written evaluation of every piece of testimony and
evidence." Id., quoting Schmidt v. Barnhart,
395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005).
alleges that the ALJ made five errors in finding that she is
not disabled. She contends the ALJ: (1) failed to properly
weigh the opinion of her treating psychologist; (2)
selectively cited evidence to support her conclusions
regarding plaintiffs migraine headaches; (3) failed to
explain how plaintiffs physical impairments resulted in no
work-related limitations; (4) erred in finding that there are
a significant number of jobs plaintiff can perform; and (5)
failed to resolve a conflict between the VE's testimony
and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT")
(PI. Mot. for Sum. J. at 1). We find that the ALJ erred by
inadequately supporting her decision to give little weight to
the medical opinion of Ms. Sharonova's treating
psychologist, Olga Green, Psy.D, that Ms. Sharonova's
mental impairments prevented her from engaging in full-time
work (R. 20). On that basis, we grant plaintiffs motion.
must give controlling weight to a treating physician's
opinion if the opinion is both supported by "medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques,
" and is "not inconsistent" with substantial
evidence in the record. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). When
an ALJ decides to give a treating physician less than
controlling weight, he or she must consider six criteria in
deciding how much weight to afford a medical opinion: (1) the
nature and duration of the examining relationship, (2) the
length and extent of the treatment relationship, (3) the
extent to which medical evidence supports the opinion, (4)
the degree to which the opinion is consistent with the entire
record, (5) the doctor's specialization, if applicable,
and (6) other factors which validate or contradict the
opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2)-(d)(6). If the ALJ
decides not to give controlling weight to a treater's
opinion, he or she must use these factors to minimally
articulate sound reasons for that decision. Schmidt v.
Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 842 (7th Cir. 2007), 20 C.F.R.
parties do not dispute that Dr. Green was plaintiffs treating
psychologist. Plaintiff met with Dr. Green one to two times
per week for therapy sessions to treat her depression
beginning in February 2011 and continuing at least until the
hearing in July 2013 (R. 309, 51). In addition to seeing Ms.
Sharonova for individual therapy, Dr. Green administered a
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale ("WISC-IV") and a
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
("MMPI-2") test on Ms. Sharonova over the course of
several days in September and October 2011; Dr. Green also
completed a psychiatric report for the Department of
Disability Services on February 15, 2012 ("DDS
Report") and a Mental Impairment Questionnaire and RFC
on June 21, 2013 ("Mental RFC") (R. 309-15,
453-55). In the DDS Report, Dr. Green opined that Ms.
Sharonova's depression would cause her to be unable to
concentrate at work, result in frequent crying spells, and
make her unable to handle even the slightest stressors (R.
309). She would also have serious limitations on her ability
to initiate, sustain or complete tasks, and would tend to
become overwhelmed (R. 311). In the Mental RFC, Dr. Green
opined, via check boxes, that Ms. Sharonova had
"poor/none" mental ability to perform fifteen out
of sixteen tasks associated with unskilled work,
wrote that she was "unable to manage stress
appropriately, unable to sustain attention and concentration,
[and suffered from] fatigue and easy distractibility"
initial matter, we note that after deciding not to give Dr.
Green's opinion controlling weight, the ALJ did not apply
the Section 404.1527 factors when analyzing what weight to
give it; this deficiency alone warrants remand. Scott v.
Astrue, 647 F.3d 734, 740 (7th Cir. 2011). This is
particularly the case here, where an analysis of the factors
would have likely weighed in favor of giving at least some
credit to Dr. Green's opinion: she was a mental health
specialist, she treated plaintiff regularly - and frequently
- over the course of several years, and she saw plaintiff
both in a therapeutic setting and also to administer and then
analyze psychological tests. Id.
justified her decision to give Dr. Green's opinion little
weight on the ground that it was inconsistent with her own
records and with the ME's opinion. First, the
ALJ found Dr. Green's opinion in the Mental RFC that Ms.
Sharonova could not perform fifteen out of sixteen unskilled
tasks, and was thus effectively unable to hold a job, to be
inconsistent with Dr. Green's own medical records.
Specifically, the ALJ mentions "records" that
indicate "relevant speech, logical thought process, no
delusions, and no preoccupied thought" (R. 20).
Second, the ALJ noted that Dr. Green repeatedly
assessed Ms. Sharonova as having a GAF score of 50-55, which