The former Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary announced Thursday he will be taking legal action against the DVA Board, which fired him last month for suspicious activities.
In his suit, former secretary John Scocos claims his firing from the board was unlawful because of both state and federal laws that prohibit firing veterans within one year of their return from deployment.?
A retired Army colonel who returned from Iraq in September, Scocos was fired in late November.?
“Because the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs chooses partisan politics over principles and ethics, I was unlawfully fired two days before Thanksgiving — the first Thanksgiving I would have with my family in two years,” Scocos said in a statement released Thursday.
Scocos’ lawyer, James Troupis of Michael Best and Friedrich, LLP, said he sees the suit as a way to hold the DVA Board accountable and make sure those serving in the military have job security.
“This is an important case in the fight for veterans’ rights,” Troupis said.?
Through the suit, Troupis said Scocos is seeking to return to his position as secretary and gain over $500,000 in damages and lost wages.
Scocos asserts in the complaint he was given no cause for his firing and — before the private meeting voting on Scocos’ dismissal was held — directions were given to lockdown his computer, change the locks on his office door and appoint then-Deputy DVA Secretary Ken Black to his position.?
When Scocos returned from his second deployment in Iraq, the complaint said he hired veteran Gary Winston to complete an independent investigation of some of the activities and personnel — including Black — at the DVA.?
Scocos claimed in the statement that board member Marcia Anderson demanded the investigation be terminated, a request Scocos refused. Soon after his appointment to the post, Black stopped the investigation and ordered all files obtained thus far be turned over to him.?
Also in the suit, Scocos alleged that in an attempt to force him out of his position, the board canceled his health insurance during his deployment, leaving his 6-year-old son, who suffers from a heart condition, uninsured.?
Among Scocos’ reasons for the suit was that Anderson cannot legally serve on the DVA Board because she is not a veteran.?
In a statement released Thursday, Scocos’ wife Kelly Scocos said it is upsetting to see an organization that is supposed to be protecting the rights of veterans doing the exact opposite.
“I understand even more, now, why John has dedicated much of his life to protecting and expanding opportunities and benefits for veterans,” Kelly Scocos said.?
University of Wisconsin law professor William Church said while Scocos’ side of the story may be compelling, it is impossible to know the true facts until DVA releases a statement.?
“At this point, it’s impossible to tell how the case will go,” Church said. “Often one side will want to try the case in the press, but it’s impossible to tell the real outcome until all the facts are out.”
As of press time, DVA could not be reached for comment.