Officials are moving forward after the state Justice Department finds no criminal violations nor misconduct at the state Veterans Agency.
Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos says military veterans are relieved to hear the news, and can begin to re-establish their trust in the way veterans’ issues are being handled at the state level. Scocos’ key concern right now is providing treatment for PTSD and other mental health issues for returning veterans.
“I believe that if we do not connect with our personnel upon their arrival back to Wisconsin — followup with the needed mental, physical, educational and informational programs and interventions, we as a society are likely to pay for their service for a very long time.” Scocos says, “It’s the right thing to do and the fiscally responsible thing to do. Freedom has a cost that we all bear.”
Scocos says 25%-to-40% of the returning veterans experience a mental health disorder. He’s actively working on acquiring funds for programs that benefit veterans, including outreach, reintegration and maintaining the solvency of the Veterans Trust Fund.
Governor Jim Doyle, earlier this week at a Veterans Day ceremony, touted Wisconsin’s commitment to veterans, saying the Badger State leads the way among all states in the country.
“Even in the most difficult economic times that we have confronted since the Depression, even at a time when we are having to cut almost anything we can find to cut in state government, we have not backed off on our commitment to the veterans of this state.”
Doyle cites tuition remission, job training, outreach, free admission to state parks and trails, as just a few of the many benefits offered to Wisconsin veterans.
No crimes were committed when officials at the state veterans’ nursing home in Waupaca County spent over $700,000 without legislative approval. Assistant attorney general Paul Barnett says there were miscommunications and disagreements within the agency, but it would not be appropriate to seek criminal charges or civil fines.
Veterans Secretary John Scocos was serving in Iraq when acting secretary Ken Black asked the Justice Department to investigate questionable expenditures, saying, among other things, the vets’ home at King bought a $250,000 fire truck without the okay from lawmakers. But Barnett says Governor Doyle actually approved the fire truck, because the old one was damaged beyond repair. Barnett says other questionable expenses were justified, too.