United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey T. Gilbert, United States Magistrate Judge.
Allison Lanzi-Boland ("Claimant") seeks review of
the final decision of Respondent Nancy A. Berry hill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"),
denying Claimant's application for Disability Insurance
Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social
Security Act ("Act"). The parties have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment [ECF Nos. 10 and 18]
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. This Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c)
and 405(g). For the reasons stated below, Claimant's
Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 10] is granted, and the
Commissioner's Motion [ECF No. 18] is denied. This matter
is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
November 30, 2012, Claimant filed her claim for DIB, alleging
the onset of her disability as of October 28, 2009. (R.
198-204.) The claim was denied initially on April 24, 2013,
and upon reconsideration on October 22, 2013, after which
Claimant timely filed a request for a hearing. (R. 126.)
Claimant, represented by non-attorney representative Carl
Triebold, appeared and testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Karen Sayon on
December 8, 2014. (R. 44-80.) The ALJ also heard testimony
from vocational expert (the "VE") Michelle
Peters-Pagella. (R. 74-80.)
February 9, 2015, the ALJ denied Claimant's claim for
DIB, based on a finding that she was not disabled under the
Act. (R. 22-35.) The opinion followed the five-step
evaluation process required by Social Security Regulations
("SSR"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one,
the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity ("SGA") since her alleged onset
date of October 28, 2009, through her date last insured of
June 30, 2014. (R. 24.) At step two, the ALJ found that
Claimant had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, obesity,
and carpal tunnel syndrome. (Id.) At step three, the
ALJ found that Claimant did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404 Subpart P., Appendix 1. (R. 27.)
then found Claimant had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work, except that she is
"unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; is able to
frequently but not constantly kneel and climb ramps and
stairs; she is able to occasionally stoop; she is limited to
frequent but not constant handling and fingering bilaterally;
and her work should involve simple instructions and routine
tasks." (R. 28.) Based on this RFC, the ALJ determined
at step four that Claimant was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. (R. 34.) Lastly, at step five, the ALJ
found that given Claimant's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Claimant
could have performed, such as assembler, hand packer, or
sorter. (R. 34-35.) Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant
had not been under a disability from October 28, 2009,
through June 30, 2014, the date last insured. (R. 35.) The
Social Security Administration ("SSA") Appeals
Council declined to review the matter on July 11, 2016,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by this Court under
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Baumhart, 416
F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final
decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for review.
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). Under
such circumstances, the district court reviews the decision
of the ALJ. (Id.) Judicial review is limited to
determining whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record and whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards in reaching his or her decision.
Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (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).
evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 42 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). A
"mere scintilla" of evidence is not enough.
Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir.
2002). Even where there is adequate evidence in the record to
support the decision, the findings will not be upheld if the
ALJ does not "build an accurate and logical bridge from
the evidence to the conclusion." Berger v.
Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008). In other
words, if the Commissioner's decision lacks evidentiary
support or adequate discussion of the issues, it cannot
stand. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th
Cir. 2009). Though the standard of review is deferential, a
reviewing court must "conduct a critical review of the
evidence" before affirming the Commissioner's
decision. Eichstadt v, Astrue, 534 F.3d
663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). It may not, however, "displace
the ALJ's judgment by reconsidering facts or
evidence." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413
(7th Cir. 2008).
alleges a number of errors on appeal. First, Claimant
contends that the ALJ failed to properly analyze her
fibromyalgia pursuant to SSR 12-2p, which resulted in an
improper assessment of the treating source opinion evidence
as well as her subjective symptom statements and credibility.
[ECF. No. 11, at 5-14.] Next, Claimant asserts that the ALJ
failed to build a complete record. (Id.) Finally,
Claimant argues that the ALJ failed to properly assess her
mental impairments. (Id.)
The ALJ's Assessment of the Medical Opinion
first argues that the ALJ erred in assessing the opinions of
her treating physicians. [ECF No. 11, at 8-16.] Social
Security regulations direct an ALJ to evaluate each medical
opinion in the record. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c). Because of a treating physician's
greater familiarity with the claimant's condition and the
progression of her impairments, the opinion of a
claimant's treating physician is entitled to controlling
weight as long as it is supported by medical findings and is
not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the
record. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); Loveless v.
Cohin, 810 F.3d 502, 507 (7th Cir. 2016); Clifford
v. Apfel, 227 F.3d at 870. When an ALJ decides not to
give controlling weight to a claimant's treating
physician, the ALJ must provide a sound explanation for doing
so. Punzio v. Astrue, 630 F.3d 704, 710 (7th Cir.
2011); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) ("We will always
give good reasons in our . . . decisions for the weight we
give your treating source's opinion.").
when an ALJ provides good reasons for not giving controlling
weight, she still must determine and articulate what weight,
if any, to give the opinion. Scott v. Astrue, 647
F.3d 734, 740 (7th Cir. 2011). In making that determination,
the regulations require the ALJ to consider a variety of
factors, including: (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
physician's specialization if applicable; and (6) other
factors which validate or contradict the opinion. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(c); Yuri v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 850,
860 (7th Cir. 2014); Moss v. Astrue, 555 F.3d 556,
561 (7th Cir. 2009).
the ALJ considered opinions from two of Claimant's
treating physicians: Dr. Janet Leon, a rheumatologist, and
Dr. Roberto Segura, a neurologist. (R. 32-33, 1150-54,
1157-61.) The ALJ accorded "little weight" to the
opinions of Drs. Leon and Segura, and "great
weight" to the opinions of the two state agency
reviewing physicians. (R. 32-33.) The ALJ characterized the
treating physicians' opinions as "broad conclusory
statements that the claimant could not work full time, "
and concluded that the "clinical and diagnostic testing
that was reflected in all of the treating physicians'
records fail to support this reduced work capacity." (R.
32.) The ALJ also considered the opinion of Claimant's
treating chiropractor, Dr. Patrick Balsier, but dismissed it
because he is not considered "an acceptable medical
Claimant's Treating Physicians