United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge
Social Security appeal, plaintiff Admira Begic moves for
reversal or remand of the final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying her application for benefits
("Commissioner") (doc. # 19). For the reasons set
forth below, we grant Ms. Begic's motion.
April 2, 2012, Ms. Begic filed for disability benefits
alleging that she became too disabled to work as of May 1,
2009 (R. 88). Her claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration, and after two hearings before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), the ALJ issued an
opinion denying Ms. Begic's request for benefits (R. 18).
The Appeals Council denied her request for review (R. 1),
making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Loveless v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 502,
506 (7th Cir. 2016).
support of her motion, Ms. Begic argues primarily that the
ALJ's findings regarding her mental impairments were
erroneous and require remand (doc. # 20: PL's Mem. in
Supp. of Summ. J. at 8-15). For the reasons that follow, we
conclude that remand is necessary on this basis, and we
therefore do not reach Ms. Begic's additional arguments
for remand. Below, we set forth the evidence relevant to this
October 27, 2010, Ms. Begic began regular psychiatric
outpatient treatment with Mussarat Y. Zahid, M.D. (R. 659).
Dr. Zahid observed that Ms. Begic showed marked anxiety in
her psychomotor activity, had poor concentration, and
appeared dysthymic (depressed) and dysphoric (anxious,
restless, unhappy) (R. 661). Ms. Begic reported suffering
headaches, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, and off and on
feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and guilt (R. 660).
Dr. Zahid diagnosed Ms. Begic as suffering from severe major
depression, panic disorder and migraines (R. 661). Between
November 2010 and April 2011, Dr. Zahid added a diagnosis of
insomnia and noted that Ms. Begic remained generally
depressed, dysthymic, dysphoric, and at least somewhat
anxious (R. 642, 645, 652, 654-59, 804, 816). In May 2011,
Dr. Zahid added the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
disorder ("PTSD"), but PTSD did not appear again in
Dr. Zahid's notes until April 2012 (R. 640).
April 28, 2011, Ms. Begic had a check-up with her primary
care physician, Sinisa Boskovic, M.D., who noted that Ms.
Begic was "in no acute distress, pleasant, comfortable,
cooperative, interacting appropriately" and had a normal
affect (R. 696-97). On May 15, 2011, the report from Ms.
Begic's visit to Sherman Hospital for an upper
respiratory and ear infection stated that she was cooperative
and had appropriate mood and affect as well as normal
judgment (R. 517-20).
regular appointments with Dr. Zahid from September through
December 2011, Dr. Zahid noted that Ms. Begic's
concentration remained poor and her psychomotor activity
continued to show marked anxiety (R. 650). In addition, in
October 2011, Ms. Begic's trouble sleeping and her
depression worsened; she reported suffering from nightmares
and severe stress (R. 646-49). At Ms. Begic's
appointments with Dr. Zahid in February and April 2012, Dr.
Zahid's description of Ms. Begic remained largely the
same (R. 641, 643-44). However, in February, Dr. Zahid added
a prescription for Elavil (for nerve pain and depression),
and in April, Dr. Zahid again identified PTSD as a diagnosis
for Ms. Begic, along with depression, panic disorder,
migraines and insomnia (Id.).
2, 2012, Dr. Zahid filled out a mental capacity assessment.
She wrote that Ms. Begic was severely depressed, had severe
social anxiety, and had severe panic attacks (R. 636-37). Dr.
Zahid checked boxes indicating that Ms. Begic had extreme
limitations (defined as a "major limitation" in an
area where the individual has "no useful ability to
function") in understanding and memory and sustained
concentration and persistence (R. 635-36). Dr. Zahid
indicated that Ms. Begic had extreme and marked limitations
(defined as a "serious limitation" in an area where
the individual cannot generally perform satisfactorily) in
social interaction and adaptation (R. 636-37). The same
month, Ms. Begic and her nephew filled out function reports
stating that she could not cook, clean, or bathe, but she did
laundry and drove alone to shop once a week (R. 282-85). They
wrote that Ms. Begic spent time with family and friends but
she was fearful of noise and being alone (R. 287-88,
June 2012 through May 2013, Ms. Begic continued to see Dr.
Zahid regularly. Dr. Zahid reported that Ms. Begic's
depression varied from mild to severe, her mood and affect
varied from normal to dysthymic and dysphoric, her
concentration varied from poor to good, and her psychomotor
activity ranged from within normal limits to showing marked
anxiety (R. 639, 782-98). Ms. Begic continued to report
having panic attacks and trouble sleeping. Her diagnoses
remained major depression (sometimes listed as severe,
sometimes not), severe panic disorder, PTSD, insomnia and
migraines, and her medications were Elavil, Prozac, Xanax,
Topamax (for headache), and at times Remeron (an
antidepressant) (Id.). During this time, Ms. Begic
continued to see Dr. Boskovic with physical complaints, and
she visited the emergency room once complaining of chest
pain. Records from those visits reported that her mood and
affect were appropriate, and she had no symptoms of anxiety
or depression (R. 733-39, 746-48, 759, 853).
November 21, 2012, a non-examining state agency medical
consultant opined Ms. Begic had mild restrictions in
activities of daily living ("ADLs") and social
functioning and no difficulties in concentration, persistence
or pace (R. 102-03). On March 25, 2013, Dr. Zahid filled out
a residual functional capacity ("RFC")
questionnaire, stating that Ms. Begic was severely depressed
and had panic attacks, nightmares and severe headaches, all
of which constantly interfered with her attention and
concentration (R. 768).
August 15, 2013, at the first hearing before the ALJ,
psychologist Kathleen O'Brien, Ph.D., testified as a
medical expert (R. 169, 975). She had reviewed Dr.
Zahid's reports through June 2012 and found no
explanation for why Dr. Zahid diagnosed PTSD or why Dr. Zahid
did not change Ms. Begic's treatment plan in light of her
continued severe mental impairments (R. 975-76). Dr.
O'Brien saw a conflict between Dr. Boskovic's records
- which did not indicate that Ms. Begic displayed severe
mental impairments - and Dr. Zahid's records (R. 975-76).
The ALJ continued the hearing so that Ms. Begic could submit
additional records from Dr. Zahid and receive a new
psychological consultative examination ("CE") (R.
October 2, 2013, Michael E. Stone, Psy.D., performed a
psychological CE (R. 834). Ms. Begic reported that she had
PTSD after witnessing the war in Bosnia (Id.). Dr.
Stone noted that Ms. Begic was "minimally cooperative,
" and her behavior was "pained and distracted, but
essentially appropriate" (R. 835). She was tearful, her
affect was depressed but appropriate, and her mood appeared
anxious, dysthymic and dysphoric (Id.). Dr, Stone
listed her diagnoses as PTSD, major depression and
generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks (R. 837). He
opined that Ms. Begic had moderate restriction in ability to
understand, remember and carry out complex instructions;
moderate restriction in ability to interact appropriately
with supervisors, co-workers and the general public; and