United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge.
Ricardo Diaz (“Plaintiff” or “Mr.
Diaz”) seeks review of the final decision of Respondent
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”),  denying Plaintiff's
applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II
and supplemental security income under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Local Rule 73.1, the parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge for all
proceedings, including entry of final judgment. (Dkt. 7).
parties cross-moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkts. 8, 15). For the reasons
stated below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED and the Commissioner's is DENIED. The decision of
the Commissioner is REVERSED, and the case is remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion
Diaz applied for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits when he was 30 years old. (R. at 198). Mr.
Diaz previously worked as a construction worker and
telemarketer. (Id. at 224). In 2007, Mr. Diaz was
admitted to the emergency room and his evaluation noted
delusions, paranoid ideation, psychosis and schizoaffective.
(Id. at 310-11). Mr. Diaz was subsequently treated
by Marlene Casiano, M.D., Thor Agustsson, D.O., and
Shyamsunder Chakilum, M.D. (see R. at 353, 329,
404),  and diagnosed with bipolar and
schizoaffective disorder. (id. at 348, 316).
disorder “causes extreme mood swings that include
emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows
(depression).” Mayo Clinic: Bipolar
Disorder.Schizoaffective disorder is “a
disorder in which a mood episode and the active-phase
symptoms of Schizophrenia occur together and were preceded or
are followed by at least 2 weeks of delusions or
hallucinations without prominent mood symptoms.”
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 298 (4th ed.
2010). Schizoaffective disorder features “an
uninterrupted period of illness during which, at some time,
there is Major Depressive, Manic or Mixed Episode concurrent
with symptoms that meet Criterion A for Schizophrenia.”
Id. at 319. “Substantial occupational and
social dysfunction are common.” Id. at 321.
January 17, 2013, Mr. Diaz protectively filed an application
for supplemental security income and disability insurance
benefits, claiming a disability onset date of August 15,
2010. (R. at 11, 196-207). On October 17, 2014, the ALJ
issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's application
for benefits based on a finding that he was not disabled
under the Social Security Act. (Id. at 11-22). The
opinion followed the five-step sequential evaluation process
required by the Social Security Regulations. 20 CFR §
404.1520. The ALJ initially noted that Mr. Diaz met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2014. (R. at 13). At step one, the ALJ
found that Mr. Diaz had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of August 15, 2010.
(Id.) At step two, the ALJ found that Mr. Diaz had
the severe impairments of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Mr. Diaz did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Id. at 14).
step four, the ALJ found that Mr. Diaz:
has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range
of work at all exertional levels but with non-exertional
limitations as follows. He retains the ability to perform
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks consistent with
unskilled work in a static environment with few changes. He
is able to have appropriate interactions with supervisors,
co-workers, and the public. He is able to make simple
(R. at 15). Based on this residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), the ALJ determined at step four that Mr.
Diaz was unable to perform any past relevant work of
construction worker and telemarketer. (Id. at 20).
At step five, however, the ALJ found that Mr. Diaz could
perform other work existing in the national economy including
machine feeder, janitor, packager, and fastener.
(Id. at 21). Based on this determination, the ALJ
concluded that Mr. Diaz was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. (Id.) The Social Security Appeals
Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for
review, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-4). Plaintiff now
seeks review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
STANDARD OF REVIEW
decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final
decision if the Appeals Counsel denies a request for review.
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). The
district court reviews the decision of the ALJ, limiting its
review to a determination of whether the ALJ's findings
of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Young v.
Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). Evidence
is considered substantial “if a reasonable person would
accept it as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 473 (7th Cir.
2004). In addition, the ALJ must explain her analysis of the
evidence “with enough detail and clarity to permit
meaningful appellate review.” Briscoe ex rel.
Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).
When the ALJ recommends a denial of benefits, the ALJ
“must first build an accurate and logical bridge from
the evidence to the conclusion.” Berger v.
Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal
quotations and citation omitted). This means that the ALJ
“must rest its denial of benefits on adequate evidence
contained in the record and must explain why contrary
evidence does not persuade.” Id. A
Commissioner decision that lacks evidentiary support or
adequate discussion of the issues will be remanded.
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir.
2009). The reviewing court may enter a judgment
“affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the
[Commissioner], with or without remanding the cause for a
rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
objects to the ALJ's decision on two grounds: (1) the ALJ
did not properly analyze the treating psychiatrists'
opinions and (2) the ALJ's credibility determination was
flawed. The Court agrees that the ALJ erred in her analysis
of both the treating doctors' opinions and Mr. Diaz's
The ALJ's treatment of the doctors' opinions is not
supported by substantial evidence.
challenges the ALJ's treatment of the opinions of Drs.
Agustsson and Chakilum. (Dkt. 8 at 7-10). The ALJ gave
“little weight” and “very little
weight” to these treating psychiatrists' opinions,
respectively, but gave the ...