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NEWS STORIES

Veterans Face Long Wait for Claims ProcessingSubmitted: 10/04/2012
Story By Lex Gray

RHINELANDER - Veterans served our country, but now it seems their claims aren't being served.

The Department of Veteran's Affairs has a backlog of 860,000 disability claims, and nearly 230,000 of those have been waiting a year or more.

Oneida County's veterans service officer Tammy Walters said part of the reason processing has slowed is positive.

The V.A. is getting the word out about more disabilities, and that means veterans can get help.


But that positive comes with a negative even more claims and a slower wait.

"When I first got here, I would say a long claim took six months, and now they take a year or more," said Walters, who started over six years ago.

Iraq war veteran Kelly Keating has also seen a slowdown.

"Everyone keeps telling me, just be patient with it, it takes time," Keating said. "You get sick of hearing it, but you have no choice."

No choice, but plenty of problems. After Keating came back, she drank a lot. She still has nightmares, spinal problems, and headaches.

"They never told us to document anything, and when you go back now to do your comp, they look for documentation. And half the time there isn't any," she said.

No documentation is just one reason things have slowed down. It's also because of our current war, and one that ended 37 years ago.

"Any veteran who stepped boot on ground in Vietnam is automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. And they're finding that Agent Orange has caused a multitude of disabilities," Walters said. "As time has gone on, they've added more disabilities to that list."

Whether the injuries are old or new, the effect is the same.

"A lot of people can't work because of their service-related disabilities, and they don't know when they're going to get paid, they're struggling to get by day-to-day," Walters said. "There's really nothing we can do, other than empathize, but that doesn't pay their bills."

"You just have to wait, wait, wait, that's what the military is about," Keating said.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
Update-Inmate captured after failing to return to jailSubmitted: 09/30/2014

MARATHON COUNTY - An inmate who didn't return to jail from Huber release will now get a chance to think about his mistake.

The Marathon County Sheriff's department confirms inmate Tommie Rothenberger has been captured.

He was found in Waupaca County around 5:30 last night.

Rothenberger was let out of the Marathon County Jail Friday morning to go to school at Northcentral Technical College.

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Iconic northern tree species could disappear as Northwoods climate warmsSubmitted: 09/30/2014

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FIFIELD - "Here's the paper birch, or white birch. It's one of my favorite trees," Linda Parker tells me as we walk through a part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Fifield.

But her next thought on the tree is not so pleasant.

"This again is one of the species that occurs at the southern edge of its range here. It's more common to the north," she says. "This is another species in which we expect to see large declines."

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Virgin Airlines lets some employees have unlimited holiday vacation days, experts say strategy won't work in Northwoods Submitted: 09/30/2014

NORTHWOODS - Unlimited vacation time might sound unrealistic, but Virgin Airlines is letting some of its employees take off whenever they want. Nicolet Staffing thinks that wouldn't work in the Northwoods.

Virgin Airlines got the idea from Netflix. One hundred seventy employees can only take the unlimited days off when they feel that their team is up to date with every project. They also need to make sure their vacation time won't damage the business or their career.

Nicolet Staffing branch manager Robert Erickson says with so many manufacturers in the Northwoods, that system isn't possible.

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Preserving Wisconsin's wetlands Submitted: 09/30/2014

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RHINELANDER - You can find hundreds of plant species, different types of animal life, and breathtaking views in Wisconsin's wetlands.

Many people want to make sure wetlands are protected for years to come.

One group recently released a book educating others on wetland conservation.

"My favorite part is waking up and looking out the window. Every day is different. Every season is different," said wetlands owner Scott Eshelman.
Wisconsin wetlands surround Scott Eshelman's property.

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UW-Marathon County issues voter IDs to students who need oneSubmitted: 09/30/2014

WAUSAU - A local college wants to make sure its students can vote this November.

UW-Marathon County is issuing voter IDs to students that don't have them.

Everyone in Wisconsin needs to have an ID to vote this fall.

The university started making the IDs Monday.

All UW schools will be issuing IDs to students who need one.

"The biggest reason that we're doing this is we really want our students to have that opportunity to vote," says Interim Assistant Campus Dean for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at UW-Marathon County Carla Rabe. "Some of our students may not have the proper voter ID, and so for us to offer that opportunity to our students really just encourages them to really take the importance in voting."

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Firefighters practice rescue in sewerSubmitted: 09/30/2014

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RHINELANDER - Firefighters need to practice rescue techniques so they can stay safe when responding to real emergencies.

Members of the Rhinelander Fire Department spent Tuesday in a sewer to practice rescuing people in a tight space.

Click "play video" to see how and why they do it.

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Wisconsin gets record timber sales on state lands; catching up on land management planSubmitted: 09/30/2014

RHINELANDER - Wisconsin made a record amount of money from timber sales on state lands in the most recent fiscal year.

Timber sales totaled $ 11.7 million during the most recent fiscal year. The fiscal year ended in June. DNR Chief Forester Paul DeLong says they fell behind on their land management plan in the early 2000s, so the record sales reflect the fact they're trying to catch up.

"We'll actually come back down slightly looking forward a bit because we will have worked down that backlog," DeLong said.

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