The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)
This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").
Plaintiff raises the following issues:
1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly rejected the treating physician's opinion;
2. Whether the ALJ properly articulated Plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and
3. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony. (JS at 4.)
This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.
THE ALJ PROPERLY DISCOUNTED THE OPINION OF DR. PULIDO In his Decision (AR 20-25), the ALJ assessed Plaintiff with a Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work. (AR 23.) In making his determination, the ALJ evaluated the medical evidence in the record, giving "little weight" to the opinion of treating physician Dr. Pulido. (AR 24.) Plaintiff asserts that this was error.
Although Plaintiff disputes any contention that Dr. Pulido is not his treating physician, this does not appear to be a real issue in this case, as the Commissioner does not contend to the contrary. What is contested, rather, is the extent of treatment, and the type of treatment that Dr. Pulido provided. Plaintiff claims that he has been treated by Dr. Pulido for 12 years, and sees him at least every other month. (AR 55-56.) That would be approximately 70 visits; however, the record does not contain documentation reflecting such a frequency of treatment. Thus, while Dr. Pulido, in the hierarchy of medical sources, must be considered a treating physician, the absence of a longitudinal treatment record is relevant because the records which are included in the file (AR 221-223; 281-295) are essentially conclusory, "check the box" forms, which do not reflect any underlying objective testing, laboratory results, or the like. As such, they are entitled to less credibility than if they had such support. See Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-2p; Crane v. Shalala, 76 F.3d 251, 253 (9th Cir. 1996), citing Murray v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 501 (9th Cir. 1983). See also Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 749, 751 (9th Cir. 1989).
Moreover, the ALJ relied upon opinions of consultative examiners ("CE") whose opinions were rendered after doing objective testing (see, e.g., internal medicine evaluation of Dr. Sicarz at AR 224-228, referenced in ALJ Decision). The testing performed during this 2009 examination indicated that Plaintiff at most had muscle spasm in his back (AR 227), a normal gait, and the straight leg raising test was negative. (AR 226-227.)
Moreover, the ALJ was entitled to and did rely upon the opinion of the medical expert ("ME") who had reviewed all of the medical records. (AR 24, 306, 309-314.) All of these opinions were contrary to the functional assessment rendered by Dr. Pulido. It is the ALJ's task to evaluate competing opinions and the evidence upon which they are based, and that is exactly what occurred in this case. The Court finds no reason to disturb the ALJ's conclusions, and thus, rejects Plaintiff's first issue.
THE ALJ PROPERLY DETERMINED PLAINTIFF'S RESIDUAL ...