Armed with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in
early childhood education, Arlene Weiler began teaching in Georgia.
She later returned to Milwaukee area to teach kindergarten in the
Cudahy school system.
One of the first members of the National Teacher Corps, Ms. Weiler
is proud of what she has accomplished as a teacher.
Outgoing and personable at 50, Ms. Weiler describes herself as
having been a "perpetual student. I used to be a sponge when it
came to learning... life has so many wonders to explore," she
says. Her enthusiasm for teaching is evident as she remembers
two decades in Kindergarten classrooms.
"The children were scientists and explorers, and I was their
environmental engineer and research assistant," she said.
"We had a framework of daily activities, stories, songs and
games in reading, math and science.
We learned that it can be lots of fun to eat your way through the
alphabet and counting Cheerios and M&Ms.
"Because I know how important the kindergarten years are to
building a foundation, I did everything I could to make myself a better teacher,
" Ms. Weiler continued. "My forte is creativity, but I took a lot
of courses in science, nature, history, geography, and many other
things-anything else to keep up with the kids'
A model teacher, perhaps, but Ms. Weiler no longer spends her days
spinning creative tales and lighting the fires of learning for her
"For some years, teaching became more difficult and demanding of my
time," she said. "It became increasingly difficult to pick up the pieces and
get things ready for a new year in what seemed to be a shorter and
shorter summer vacation."
Her problems increased when her school involuntarily transferred
her to teach the second grade.
"The second grade wasn't my field of expertise," she said. "When the transfer order came, I lost
the whole shooting mach.
"I loved being a kindergarten teacher. I was allowed to be creative
because kindergarten is a bit 'mysterious,' and most administrators don't
understand it and leave you alone. Second grade is different
because it is so highly structured. Well, I just couldn't do it.
I couldn't get organized. I did my best, but I was in a catatonic
state by the Christmas holidays. I had to quit work and begin therapy."
Ms. Weiler reflected on her slide into deep depression.
"I made the mistake of investing my life in my profession and
trying to satisfy the needs of others," she said. "Instead of taking an
objective to look at a profession that came before more difficult
and more demanding each year, I tried to live up to all the expectations.
I attempted to live up to the demands of the children, their
parents, and the administration until there was nothing left of me."
She added, "I feel like an artist who has worked with every ounce
of her energy to create a masterpiece just to see the effort of
demolished. My depression culminated one day at home while I was
doing the dishes. For some reason, I suddenly started
I was a sad and mournful little girl wailing for her
Adding to, or perhaps as a result of, the depression, Ms. Weiler
developed several sub-personalities.
She describes one as a "two year old tank commander who pushes
everyone around."Another is an "eight year old who is r
esponsible and loving." Reluctant to talk in detail about her
depression, she does say "I'm not sure how many personalities are
involved; they're not distinctive. They are persistent, but not
Despite intensive therapy, Ms. Weiler found herself unable to
function. Battling her depression was painful enough, but when
she applied for Social Security disability benefits, Ms. Weiler
waged a war on two fronts.
"I bared my soul to Social Security on my initial application. With
my depression, it was sheer agony to fill out all those confusing forms,
" she said. Her discouragement quickly turned to bitterness when
SSA denied her application.
"I was ready to quit," Ms. Weiler continued. "Even when my
insurance company referred me to you, I didn't want to
pursue my claim. I just didn't feel I could cope with this ordeal
again. I didn't believe anyone could help me."
Later, Ms. Weiler appointed Karen Tretter, our claims
consultant, as her representative.
"I was very apprehensive," she said.
"I've never needed help before. I've been a helper all my life, but
no one has ever helped me before.
Why should I believe a complete stranger would enter my life just
to help me with this problem?"
When Ms. Tretter accepted the case, she began what eventually
became a lengthy and complex appeals process.
SSA denied her initial application. When Ms. Tretter filed for
reconsideration, it was again denied. When the administrative law judge
denied the appeal at the hearing level, Ms. Tretter forwarded it to
the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council remanded the case
back to the ALJ, who again issued a denial.
Following customary procedures, Ms. Tretter refused to stop
pursuing what she thought was a legitimate depression disability.
She again asked the Appeals Council to review the case.
The Council did so, and remanded the case to a different ALJ.
Finally, an administrative law judge in Milwaukee approved
Ms. Weiler for full disability benefits for her
"This case took longer to decide than most because of the lengthy
dispute between the Appeals Council and the ALJ,"
Ms. Tretter said. "I knew from the outset it wasn't going to be
easy because of the complexity.
"Depression disability is always difficult to determine. The fact
that Ms. Weiler is well educated and obviously intelligent
made it an even more difficult decision.
"The ALJ who eventually awarded the claim took the time to be fully
prepared," Ms. Tretter continued.
"The judge had a knowledgeable psychologist on hand at the hearing,
and he went out of his way to examine every angle on all the issues."
Ms. Weiler's initial doubt about a "stranger" being able to
help her was replaced with gratitude and admiration.
"Karen did a super job!" she said. "It was as if the Social
Security Administration dumped 10 tons of gravel on me, and Karen dug me out,
brushed me off, and said she'd take care of me."
At first bitter about the application ordeal, Ms. Weiler is now
"Thank God for an America that allows a company like Allsup to
exist. Some people think the American system doesn't work,
but I'm here to tell you it does."
Today, Ms. Weiler continues her depression therapy. She looks
forward to someday returning to work, but she knows
much progress must be made before she'll be able to do
Arlene Weiler's name has been changed to protect
To receive: Preliminary
Evaluation for Disability Benefits
Go to: Store: Unique Psychological and
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