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Head of state Veterans' Affairs concerned about helping troops due back from Iraq

The head of the state Veterans' Affairs department says he's concerned about helping the thousands of troops due back from Iraq early next year.

John Scocos is just back himself from his second tour in Iraq with the Army Reserves.

He tells the Wisconsin State Journal the state needs to provide more long-term funding for current programs, plus new ones to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state veterans' trust fund, which pays for a myriad of veterans' benefits, has dropped to $28 million.

And unless it gets a boost, experts say it could run dry in 2012. The agency asked for more funding this year but with the recession and the budget deficit, its funds were cut by more than $400,000.

Meanwhile, Scocos says he supports an audit requested by the Veterans' Affairs Board while he was gone.

Among other things, the audit is looking into $820,000 in unbudgeted spending at the state veterans' nursing home in Waupaca County.

Former vets' affairs secretary Ray Boland said the audit could district the department from its mission of serving veterans, at a time when more than 3,000 are due back early next year.

Boland also fears an effort to remove Scocos. Scocos promises to fix any problems the auditors find.