United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge.
Social Security appeal, plaintiff Cynthia Kalinowski moves
for reversal and remand of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner")
denying her application for disabled widow's insurance
benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 402(e) (doc. # 11), The
Commissioner has filed a cross-motion asking the Court to
affirm the decision (doc. # 20). For the reasons set forth
below, we grant Ms. Kalinowski's motion and deny the
Commissioner's motion, I, Ms. Kalinowski was born on June
19, 1958, making her 45 years old at the time of her
husband's death on December 30, 2003 (R. 277, 329). On
January 25, 2010, Ms. Kalinowski filed an application for
widow's insurance benefits, stating that she became
unable to work due to a disabling condition beginning on
December 15, 2001 (R. 277-78). In order to be entitled to
disabled widow's benefits, Ms. Kalinowski must have
established that she had a disability beginning on or before
January 31, 2013 (the Commissioner calls this the end of the
"prescribed period"), which is seven years after
January 1, 2006, the date Ms. Kalinowski was last entitled to
survivor's benefits (R. 13). See 42 U.S.C.
§ 402(e)(4); 20 C.F.R. 404.335(c).
her claim was denied initially and on reconsideration, Ms.
Kalinowski appeared and testified at a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on February 28,
2012 (R. 103-39). The ALJ issued an opinion denying benefits
on April 4, 2012 (R. 142-58), but on July 29, 2013, the
Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the case to
the ALJ (R. 159-62). The ALJ obtained additional evidence and
held another hearing on October 6, 2014 (R.
63-102).He issued a second written opinion on
November 17, 2014, finding Ms. Kalinowski not disabled (R.
9-29). On July 22, 2015, the Appeals Council issued a
decision adopting the ALJ's "findings or conclusions
regarding whether the claimant is disabled, " but
modifying the ALJ's opinion to state Ms. Kalinowski was
not under a disability from her alleged onset date through
January 31, 2013, the end of the prescribed period (R.
4-5). The ALJ's ruling, as adopted and
modified by the Appeals Council, stands as the final decision
of the Commissioner. See Murphy v. Colvin, 759 F.3d
811, 815 (7th Cir. 2014), as amended (Aug. 20, 2014),
reh'g denied (Oct. 10, 2014).
medical record begins on March 13, 2007, when Ms. Kalinowski
was admitted to Loretto Hospital after overdosing on Paxil
(anti-depressant) and alcohol and attempting to cut her wrist
(R. 381-83). Upon discharge two days later, her primary
diagnosis was listed as depression, with several secondary
diagnoses that included alcohol abuse and personality
disorder (R. 381).
gap of almost three years, the evidence in the record picks
up again in February 2010, when Ms. Kalinowski completed
various function reports for the Bureau of Disability
Determination Services ("DDS"). She reported that
she lived alone in a house with her dog, and she took care of
her personal needs, prepared meals, cleaned, did laundry,
drove alone to the store and church, and sometimes babysat
her grandchildren (R. 317-21). She had no trouble getting
along with people, but she sometimes had trouble leaving home
because she felt depressed or panicked (R. 318, 322-23). Ms.
Kalinowski's oldest daughter, Connie O'Connor, filled
out a function report in February 2010, stating, among other
things, that her mother could no longer care for her
grandchildren or be social due to panic attacks and
depression (R. 309-13). Ms. Kalinowski took medications
prescribed by her primary care physician, Saroj Verma, M.D.,
including Paxil, Xanax (anti-anxiety) and Seroquel
(anti-psychotic) (R. 548-53).
April 14, 2010, Harley G. Rubens, M.D., completed a
psychiatric evaluation of Ms. Kalinowski for DDS. He observed
that she "seemed somewhat shaky and clammy, " her
"[disposition was generally dramatic, " her mood
was "moderately anxious, " and her attention and
concentration fluctuated with her anxiety level (R. 510).
However, Ms. Kalinowski calmed down quickly during the
examination, and she had normal speech, cognition,
orientation, memory, general knowledge and judgment (R.
509-11). Dr. Rubens wrote that Ms. Kalinowski
"describe[d] an inconsistent picture concerning her
anxiety and withdrawal" (R. 511). On May 3, 2010, R.
Leon Jackson, Ph.D., completed a psychiatric review technique
based on Dr. Ruben's examination. He concluded that Ms.
Kalinowski's mental impairments were not severe and
caused no more than minimal functional limitations (R.
Kalinowski began receiving mental health counseling from
Metropolitan Family Services ("MFS") in March 2010.
At a mental status examination in May 2010, she showed good
judgment and impulse control, but she appeared distraught,
with a very intense demeanor and anxious and constricted mood
(R. 535). An MFS psychiatrist, Nasir Ali Syed, M.D.,
diagnosed Ms. Kalinowski with major depressive disorder and
agoraphobia without panic disorder, and he continued her
prescriptions for Paxil, Xanax and Seroquel (Id.).
On June 14, 2010, Dr. Verma filled out a medical evaluation
stating that Ms. Kalinowski was "extremely depressed and
anxious, " with serious limitations in activities of
daily living ("ADLs"), social functioning, and
concentration persistence or pace, and four or more episodes
of decompensation in the previous 12 months (R. 680). In
addition, Dr. Verma opined that Ms. Kalinowski had full
capacity for all physical activities, except she could not
lift more than 10 pounds (Id.).
Kalinowski's mental health symptoms fluctuated. From July
2010 through February 2011, she sometimes felt her
medications were working well to reduce her panic and
depression and improve her sleep, but at other times she was
tearful and distraught and reported having trouble sleeping
and eating (R. 558-61, 571-72, 863, 867, 1037). On March 3,
2011, Ms. Kalinowski wrote in a function report that her
panic attacks, anxiety and depression were getting worse, and
that sometimes she did not want to leave the house or get out
of bed (R. 332, 335). An MFS note from the same date noted
that despite compliance with her medication, Ms. Kalinowski
had increased anxiety with some breakthrough panic attacks
April 1, 2011, E. Eveline Powers, M.D., another psychiatrist
at MFS, completed a mental impairment questionnaire for Ms.
Kalinowski (R. 640). After reviewing Ms. Kalinowski's
symptoms, including sleep, mood and appetite disturbance,
recurrent panic attacks, and feelings of sadness and
hopelessness (R. 640, 642), Dr. Powers opined that she had
moderate restrictions in ADLs, marked difficulties in
maintaining social functioning, and frequent deficiencies of
concentration, persistence or pace, which would seriously
limit her ability to perform in various work settings (R.
640-42). Dr. Powers noted that Ms. Kalinowski took Paxil,
Xanax and Seroquel, but she "remains depressed and has
frequent panic attacks" (R. 640-41).
12, 2011, Kirk Boyenga, M.D., affirmed the May 2010 DDS
psychiatric review technique finding Ms. Kalinowski's
mental impairments were not severe (R. 644). Dr. Boyenga
noted that although Ms. Kalinowski continued to feel
irritable, withdrawn and hopeless, a February 2011 assessment
from MFS stated that therapy was helping to decrease Ms.
Kalinowski's anxiety and allowing her to feel better and
socialize more (R. 645). Dr. Boyenga indicated that he had
reviewed all of the evidence in the file, but this does not
appear to have included Dr. Powers' April 2011 report,
because in his explanation of his decision, the latest
psychiatric evidence to which Dr. Boyenga referred was dated
March 11, 2011 (R. 644-45).
June through September 2011, Ms. Kalinowski reported
continuing depression at her counseling sessions at MFS (R.
857-58, 570). On September 9, 2011, Dr. Verma's partner,
Obaida Shah-Khan, M.D., filled out a physical RFC form that
listed Ms. Kalinowski's physical impairments as
hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, and poor
circulation and pain in her legs (R. 647). He opined that she
could only sit/stand for 10 minutes at a time, and less than
2 hours total in a day (R. 647-48). Dr. Shah-Khan wrote that
Ms. Kalinowski was significantly limited in reaching and
handling and could lift less than 10 pounds only rarely
because of dizziness from hypertension (R. 649). Her
medications included Norvasc and Prinivil, for high blood
pressure and chest pain, and Trental, for poor blood
circulation (R. 545).
November 7, 2011, Ms. Kalinowski suffered a comminuted
fracture (a break into more than two fragments) of the
midshaft of her right humerus (the arm bone running from
shoulder to elbow) (R. 662-63). Kishan Chand, M.D.,
manipulated the fracture and applied a long-arm cast
(Id.). On December 23, 2011, Ms. Kalinowski still
had pain and aches in her arm (R. 732), and Dr. Chand
predicted slow healing (R. 663). On January 18, 2012, Dr.
Chand applied a new cast (R. 731), and on January 24, 2012,
Dr. Chand opined that Ms. Kalinowksi's prognosis was
guarded, and he prescribed an orthotic for her upper arm for
6 months (R. 723-24). On February 15, 2012, Dr. Chand noted
that the fracture site showed "more healing, " and
the pain was regressing (R. 735).
January 30, 2012, another MFS psychiatrist, Franchot Givens,
M.D., completed a psychiatric evaluation of Ms. Kalinowski,
which noted some improvement in her depression and panic
attacks with medication (R. 704). However, Ms. Kalinowski
reported that she continued to experience depressive and
anxiety episodes that were easily triggered without warning,
and she was becoming increasingly unable to cope, make
decisions or solve basic problems by herself (R. 712, 940,
947-48). She continued to take Seroquel, Paxil and Xanax (R.
February 28, 2012, Ms. Kalinowski testified at a hearing
before the ALJ that she became depressed in 2001 when her
mother and grandmother died and her husband's illness
worsened (R. 109-10). After her husband passed away, she
drank too much, but she stated that she no longer drank more
than one glass of wine every two weeks (R. 114). Ms.
Kalinowski testified that she did not sleep well, and most
days she wants to stay in bed (R. 116, 122, 132). She rarely
cleaned the house or did laundry, and she had little
appetite, eating only one meal a day or some days not eating
at all (R. 116-20). Ms. Kalinowski sometimes drove to the