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Krevs v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 6, 2020

JAYME KREVS Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Defendant.



         Procedural History

         Jayme Krevs alleges he has been disabled since September 15, 2015. After the Appeals Council declined to review the decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ) denying his application, Krevs filed the present action. (ECF No. 14 at 1.)

         The ALJ concluded that Krevs suffered from the following severe impairments: “degenerative disc disease (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical), dysfunction major joints including status post shoulder injury/surgery, degenerative joint disease of the elbow, depression, migraine(s), personality disorder.” (Tr. 73.) Despite these impairments, the ALJ concluded that Krevs had the following residual functional capacity:

to perform light work as deemed in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except allowing this person to sit or stand alternatively at will, provided that this person is not off task more than 10% of the work period. Limited to frequent push/pull. The individual can occasionally stoop, frequently balance, crouch, kneel, and climb ramps and stairs, but should never crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can frequently reach bilaterally, occasionally reach overhead bilaterally, frequently handle bilaterally, frequently finger bilaterally and frequently feel bilaterally. The individual can have no exposure to dangerous moving machinery or to unprotected heights. The individual is limited to understanding, carrying out and remembering no more than simple instructions. The individual can perform simple, routine tasks. The individual can work in an environment free of fast-paced production requirements. The individual can perform work involving only simple, work-related decisions and work involving few, if any, workplace changes. The claimant can have no interaction with the public, and occasional interaction with coworkers and with supervisors.

(Tr. 76.) Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Krevs was capable of working at various jobs, including “inspector hand packer, ” “electrical accessories assembler, ” and “industrial bagger, ” and therefore was not disabled. (Tr. 88.)

         Krevs argues that the ALJ erred in various respects, particularly with regard to the ALJ's consideration of Krevs's migraines, which Krevs describes as “his primary impairment and the primary reason he has lost numerous jobs in the past.” (ECF No. 14 at 12.)

         Standard of Review

         The court's role in reviewing an ALJ's decision is limited. It must “uphold an ALJ's final decision if the correct legal standards were applied and supported with substantial evidence.” L.D.R. by Wagner v. Berryhill, 920 F.3d 1146, 1152 (7th Cir. 2019) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)); Jelinek v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir. 2011). “Substantial evidence is ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Summers v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923, 926 (7th Cir. 2010)). “The court is not to ‘reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner.'” Burmester v. Berryhill, 920 F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019) (quoting Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003)). “Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's disability determination, [the court] must affirm the [ALJ's] decision even if ‘reasonable minds could differ concerning whether [the claimant] is disabled.'” L.D.R. by Wagner, 920 F.3d at 1152 (quoting Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008)).


         1. Migraines

         Migraines present a particularly difficult question in the context of disability claims. The impairment itself is not objectively verifiable, much less the frequency and severity of the resulting symptoms. The impairment also tends to result in vastly variable functioning; when not experiencing symptoms a claimant may be fully functional, but he may be completely debilitated when suffering a migraine. Thus, to assess whether a claimant's migraines preclude substantial gainful activity, it is necessary to assess both how often the claimant suffers migraines and how severe those migraines are.

         SSR 16-3p provides the framework for assessing the severity of a claimant's symptoms. It sets forth a two-step process. First, the ALJ must “determine whether the individual has a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that could reasonably be expected to produce the individual's alleged symptoms.” Second, the ALJ must “evaluate the intensity and persistence of an individual's symptoms such as pain and determine the extent to which an individual's symptoms limit his or her ability to perform work-related activities ….” To ...

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