By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Our View: Scocos gains helpful insight through service
Placeholder Image
It is rare for a politician to walk the walk while in office.

And while the state's secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs may not be a terribly political position, John Scocos certainly walks the walk.

Col. John Scocos, that is.

Scocos recently returned from a six-month deployment with the U.S. Army Reserve in Baghdad. He is the only secretary of veterans affairs in the nation to serve in Iraq. Illinois' secretary of veteran affairs, Tammy Duckworth, was appointed secretary after returning from the war.

Scocos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his experience, and the impact it will have on his job. He told of coming under mortar fire within his first few days after arriving in Baghdad. "Wow, I guess I'm really at war," Scocos said he thought.

Scocos said the experience has given him a better understanding of the needs of combat veterans.

"I think I feel more committed now," Scocos told the Journal Sentinel. "I see things now that I didn't before I was in the fight."

He says there's a need for more help for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and from traumatic brain injuries, which the Associated Press reported in a story last week has become the signature injury of the war on terrorism. More injured troops are surviving the war in Iraq than any other war. But because of the force of explosions from IEDs, more are surviving with brain injury than in any other war.

Scocos, who now is president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, said he plans to use his experience and his leadership position to urge Congress to expand the educational benefits provided in the federal GI bill.

"The VA has an obligation to this generation of veterans just as we did to previous generations," Scocos said.

As the national debate about health care increases during the presidential campaign, discussion also must include injured veterans. A national study late last year showed that nearly 2 million veterans are without health insurance, along with 3.8 million members of their households. Among the 1.8 million uninsured veterans, 12.7 percent are under 65. The number of uninsured veterans increased by nearly 300,000 between 2000 and 2004, according to the study.

Whether the government has an obligation to make sure every citizen has health insurance coverage certainly can be debated. But whether veterans and their families are covered should not be debatable.

Scocos' service, to his country and to veterans, certainly is commendable. His experience gives him a perspective that can be helpful to veterans' causes in Wisconsin and nationwide.

Thank you, colonel.