An article recently posted on WalletHub.com by John S. Kiernan ranked Georgia at 29th on a list that the writer said represents the best and worst states for military retirees.
Kiernan’s article said his intent was to “ease the burden on our nation’s military community by identifying” the best states to move to upon retiring from service. He said WalletHub’s methodology for determining which states were best was based on 19 key metrics, which he said “supplement” standard retirement-attractive metrics.
For organizational purposes only, he said his 19 key metrics were broken down into economic environment, quality of life and health care. Under economic environment, he looked at state and local sales taxes, job opportunities for veterans, the number of major military bases, housing costs and cost of living.
Quality-of-life information considered included the number of veterans per 100 inhabitants, higher-education ranking, arts and leisure/recreation opportunities and weather conditions.
Health care focused on the number of VA health facilities as well as the number of federal, state or local hospitals, number of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants and emotional health.
Data used to prepare the list was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tax Foundation, U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, Transparency.gov, Indeed.com, Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. News & World Report, Gallup Healthways, Department of Defense, Missouri Economic Research & Information Center and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to Kiernan, the four best states for military retirees are Wyoming, New Hampshire, Montana and South Dakota. According to Census Bureau data not shown in Kiernan’s report, Wyoming has a population of about 560,000 with 5,100 military retirees. Georgia has a population of about 10 million with about 90,500 military retirees.
According to miliarybases.com, only the Air Force has a base and radar sites in Wyoming, but Georgia has Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Gillem, Fort McPherson, Camp Merrill, Moody Air Force Base, Robins AFB, Marine Logistics Base Albany, Kings Bay Submarine Base and Naval Air Station Atlanta.
Kevin Larson, Fort Stewart public-affairs spokesman, said a large number of military retirees choose to remain here after leaving the military.
“There are about 16,700 military retirees living within 50 miles of Stewart-Hunter,” Larson said. “As for (military) retirees’ dependents, there are more than 31,700 living within 50 miles of here.”
During his recent State of the Garrison address, Stewart-Hunter Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory said 43 percent of soldiers pending retirement or separation who attended a recent job fair at Club Stewart said they want to remain in this area upon separation from the Army. He said about 1,500 soldiers a year transition from the Army at Fort Stewart, many of them choosing to stay here to take advantage of federal and state job training programs.
Jon Suggs, public-information director for the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, said his office preferred not to comment about how WalletHub made its list. He would not even speculate how weather was factored into their decision, given that the top states on the list are not known for mild winters.
Suggs said Georgia is confident it’s taking care of its 774,464 veterans, including retirees. Another article might produce a different list that places Georgia at the top, he said.
“We know what we do for veterans — all veterans,” Suggs said. “We are a great home for many veterans. As for retirees, I can say that more than 80 percent of the Georgia Department of Veterans Services is made up of veterans, with about a third in this (Atlanta) office having retired from Fort McPherson.”
According to the Georgia Department of Veterans Services’ website, Georgia provides veterans with state benefits such as veterans’ preference for jobs, employment assistance, education assistance and training opportunities, veterans’ drivers’ licenses and license plates, reduced fees for disabled veterans, discounts at state parks and historic sites and free hunting/fishing licenses for totally disabled veterans.
For more information about veterans’ benefits for Georgia residents, go to www.veterans.georgia.gov.