How to help wounded soldiers and make our economy healthy

WARM SPRINGS — Georgians who ponder the jobs of the future should see what’s bubbling up now in a place best known for its past.

It was here that Franklin D. Roosevelt died at his Little White House, having visited Warm Springs for two decades in the hopes of regaining the use of his legs. Today, this town of 425 souls, about two-thirds of the way from Atlanta to Columbus as the crow flies, is still host to a rehabilitation center that is under-used but first-rate. The aspiration is to build it into an invaluable resource for wounded soldiers — and a centerpiece of Georgia’s prowess and promise in bio-science.

The Georgia Warrior Alliance, a joint project of businesses and philanthropies focused on health care and veterans, brings wounded soldiers to the facilities at Warm Springs. Here, they can heal their bodies and, soon, learn work skills — from manufacturing and construction to golf course maintenance.

This is “the right thing to do” for our veterans, says an alliance co-founder, Ross Mason. It has the added potential to turn Georgia into a hub not only for the military but for research and treatment of trauma injuries.

Georgia, Mason says, has: the largest warrior-transition battalion in America at Fort Benning, just down the road from Warm Springs; the largest number of active-duty soldiers with spinal-cord injuries; and some of the nation’s largest facilities for treating burns and trauma brain injuries, both in Augusta.

Now, combine those needs and resources with the work being done at Emory, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Morehouse and the medical college in Augusta. Those schools already are national leaders in such fields as biomedical engineering, orthotics and prosthetics, and tissue engineering.

Start by serving the needs of veterans, further develop our strengths, and Mason believes Georgia could draw the capital and the commercial and philanthropic resources to become to regenerative medicine what the Research Triangle is to pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley is to computing. With the state’s economic future up in the air, success in this kind of venture will be crucial.

“What would Georgia look like if you removed Ted Turner, Robert Woodruff and Bernie Marcus” from our history, Mason asks. “We can see it in the rear-view mirror, but what we’re not doing is creating the next generation of innovators.”

Or, perhaps, we are creating the innovators but not yet finding ways to capitalize on their work.

The alliance already has other programs for veterans under way. Last year it staged six camps for 300 wounded soldiers and their families, and more are planned at Warm Springs and nearby Callaway Gardens. The idea, retired four-star Gen. Larry R. Ellis said at a ceremony last week marking the 67th anniversary of Roosevelt’s death, is to address what soldiers returning from combat call their top need: “A safe environment to decompress from the stresses of combat and re-engage with their families before re-entering society.”

About one in five Americans who commit suicide each year is a veteran, Ellis said, and the divorce rate for military families has reached 81 percent if a spouse has two deployments. In the case of three or more deployments, it’s 93 percent.

The alliance, with Georgia Tech, also is developing a web portal to help military families navigate the thousands of nonprofit resources available to them, including 24-hour counseling services. The portal also will offer links to job listings and online education courses: A critical issue as hundreds of thousands of veterans return home is preparing them for a still-sluggish job market.

To take the big next steps, however, the state needs to make some changes to public policy.

Eliminating or cutting the state income tax is one. The special council that studied tax reform two years ago found that the kind of entrepreneurs we need to attract are turned off by our 6 percent income tax rate, particularly when neighboring Florida and Tennessee have rates of zero. So far, that finding has gone nowhere in the Legislature.

Others are more technical. Mason pitches a statewide telemedicine network linking the state’s best health facilities with its poorest counties. Another need is business-friendly standards for licensing technology created in our universities, to ensure they make it to market rather than sitting on the shelf, unused.

Ross Mason is right: These are the right things to do — for soldiers, their families, and all Georgians.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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61 comments Add your comment

Ayn Rant

April 19th, 2012
7:10 am

Thanks, Kyle, for putting aside pig-drool Republican politics to promote something positive and useful. Regenerative medicine, if focused and organized, could be a great economic boon for middle Georgia, and a great service to our veterans. I’ve read that the total financial burden for the care of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars might as much as $2 trillion by 2050.

There’s a lot of suffering to be eased and plenty of money to be made in regenerative medicine. Atlanta is in a good position to be a leader in the field: we have fine universities, renowned medical institutions, and a magnificent airport near the Warm Springs area proposed as a center for the movement.

ByteMe

April 19th, 2012
7:31 am

Good piece. Thank you, Kyle.

I did my first visit to Warm Springs back in November and was surprised at the effect FDR had on that whole area. Rural Electrification came about because FDR saw how hard it was to get electric companies to service lightly populated areas like Warm Springs.

The Little White House is a good place to stop if you are going down to Callaway Gardens.

Road Scholar

April 19th, 2012
7:51 am

Good job Kyle. Went to their website to see details (non-profit? , budget, etc) and it was lean. Do you have any more info on the Georgia Warrior Alliance?

JohnnyReb

April 19th, 2012
7:54 am

Thanks Kyle. When discussing various projects/programs the children have to always be at the top of the list, but number 2 is our wounded veterans who all are heroes. The magnitude of their sacrifice is staggering and they deserve our generous sincere support.

Lyman Hall

April 19th, 2012
8:10 am

“These are the right things to do — for soldiers, their families, and all Georgians.”
.
It would be “righter” to elect Ron Paul instead of draft-dodging chicken hawks but…….then again…….Georgia might not draw the capital and the commercial and philanthropic resources to become to regenerative medicine what the Research Triangle is to pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley is to computing. With the state’s economic future up in the air, SUCCESS in this kind of venture will be crucial.
.
success?
.
Let us only increase our wars……..therefore increasing success.
Afterall….we are all Keynesians now.

carlosgvv

April 19th, 2012
8:20 am

Even though we have an all volunteer military, you never know what stresses and dangers will be faced during your time in uniform. Men and women who come back with broken bodies and broken minds absolutely deserve the best possible medical care. Anything less is a shame and disgrace to those in charge.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
8:24 am

If the first line in Ayn Rant’s comment isn’t the very definition of a backhanded compliment, I don’t know what is.

Lost my baby brother to suicide a little over 7 months ago. He was a veteran of Desert Storm back when Saddam invaded Kuwait, and whatever he saw over there was something he never quite got past.

If you see a Vet take the time to thank him or her. If you see a military member dining out, pick up their check anonymously – you’ll appreciate what that is like when you see the look on their faces.

Remember that Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day aren’t just 3-day weekends filled with sidewalk sales at your local stores. Head down to your local remembrances and see the families affected by their sacrifices and be sure to thank them for theirs.

Burt

April 19th, 2012
8:36 am

Tib,

Why should I thank someone for being a cog in the military machine that has ruined this Country?

Road Scholar

April 19th, 2012
8:50 am

Burt: The majority of troops are doing their job; only the idiots that have to take pictures of the gore or who do not know how to act are mistaken. It is the leadership that makes the decisions to go to war; Lay off Tib on this one.

Tib: Sorry about your brother. My family has had limited involvement with the military, but respect the hard job they have. I share your observation about the “casual patriots” who run out to show their flag and yellow ribbons, and then do nothing to support our troops and families. The press and our government has selectively sanitized war to the point that most have no idea or understanding of what it involves, me included. Their sacrifice gets meaningless words instead of true appreciation.
I hope your brother has found peace.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
8:52 am

Burt, leave your politics out of this.

Whether you agree or disagree with the policies formed by the politicians we elect, your issue is with them, not the people who volunteer to protect your right to be an a$$.

Becky

April 19th, 2012
8:56 am

I think the 100 BILLION dollars being spent in Afghanistan annually would go a real long way of funding this very noble thing.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
9:02 am

Thanks, Road.

All to many times we see the obvious toll of war with the physical injuries, but it’s the mental scars that sometimes go deeper and last forever. More than 20 years after Kuwait, we’re still taking casualties.

Jefferson

April 19th, 2012
9:16 am

I like the idea, but the income tax need to stay and become progressive. Nothing wrong with paying for services.

Aquagirl

April 19th, 2012
9:36 am

Oh good Lord. “We want to cut State Income tax because we love the troops!” Sure, buddy. Crumbling infrastructure helps everyone, right?

If Georgia wants to be a leader in regenerative medicine, they need to cut the crazies out of our State Legislature. What happens if they start treating paralyzed Vets with stem cells? Research using stem cells has stayed under the radar. If we ramp up the attention news may filter down to the GRTL knuckle draggers. Watch the fireworks when that happens.

Don't Tread

April 19th, 2012
9:39 am

“Eliminating or cutting the state income tax”…oh boy, that’ll get ‘em going for sure.

Burt: you spit on any returning veterans at the airport lately? You might as well have.

carlosgvv

April 19th, 2012
9:42 am

Aquagirl

We know there are those in our State Legislature who would gladly see vets staying in wheelchairs for life rather than being sucessfully treated with embyronic stem cells. In fact, many of our politicians in the House and Senate feel the same way. How did America ever come to this?

Becky

April 19th, 2012
9:44 am

carlosgvv

April 19th, 2012
9:42 am
Aquagirl

We know there are those in our State Legislature who would gladly see vets staying in wheelchairs for life rather than being sucessfully treated with embyronic stem cells. In fact, many of our politicians in the House and Senate feel the same way. How did America ever come to this?

I blame it squarely on religion, any religion.

The Alliance

April 19th, 2012
10:10 am

We ………..need ………more………limbless human beings.
.
Vote Obama or Romney……….Its for the collective good.

Rafe Hollister

April 19th, 2012
10:12 am

Tiberius
Sorry to hear about your brother. Thanks for your family’s sacrifice for this great country.

Kyle, great column. Warm Springs has been underutilized since Polio was tamed. Don’t put much faith in the state legislature to get much done, so that is a big flaw in the plan. The income tax has been a mill stone for Georgia for 20 years or more, but they only talk about eliminating it, never do anything. Why would this year be any different?

saywhat?

April 19th, 2012
10:15 am

I understand that tax cuts will also cure hemmorhoids.

ragnar danneskjold

April 19th, 2012
10:16 am

Good argument, top to bottom.

Just saying..

April 19th, 2012
10:20 am

God bless you, Kyle.
My sincere sympathies, Tiberius, on the loss of your brother. As a VN vet, there are things you see and feel that just never leave you. And thank you for the specific suggestions of appreciation that can mean so much to these men and women.

saywhat?

April 19th, 2012
10:48 am

ragnar danneskjold

April 19th, 2012
10:16 am
Good argument, top to bottom.
_______________________________

Thank you.

HDB

April 19th, 2012
10:59 am

Kyle…great article!! Not only could Warm Springs attract medical innovation from Morehouse, Emory, UGA, GT…but also Auburn, Alabama, Columbus State, UAB, Troy, FSU…almost a Medical Quadrangle!!

Tib – my condolences about your brother!! As a vet myself, I can understand much of what your family has gone through…and hope that in some way, comfort finds you………..

UGA 1999

April 19th, 2012
11:01 am

Soldiers should be offered educational resources while in the service and when they are discharged. They should also be offered counseling so that they can release much of whatever they felt and saw during action. We can no longer utilize our servicemen for 4 years and then dump them on the street to fend for themselves. They deserve better.

HDB

April 19th, 2012
11:07 am

UGA 1999

April 19th, 2012
11:01 am

Hate to say this…but much of what you advocated was eliminated in 1982 by Ronald Reagan under the guise that the nation couldn’t afford it!! That was when the changes in the GI Bill, VA Medical Care and Veterans’ benefits were changed!!

I agree with you….our vets deserve better……………

Blain

April 19th, 2012
11:14 am

They should also be offered counseling so that they can release much of whatever they felt and saw during action.

——————————————————

Help is on the way.

Veterans Affairs department plans to add about 1,900 mental health workers as more seek care

Dusty

April 19th, 2012
11:32 am

“Tis a good morning when kind hearts remember and care about our wounded soldiers. Thank you, Kyle, for bringing this information to us. I had heard nothing about it before. Warm springs could be a great place for rehab and rebuilding of mind, body and spirit. Right here in the good heart of Georgia!

Tiberius, I am so sorry about the loss of your brother. Nothing hurts much more than that. My best wishes for you and your family.

Aquagirl

April 19th, 2012
11:34 am

Help is on the way.

Yes, provided those Vets self-report symptoms that can end their military career while they’re on active duty . After that, they can go through the antiquated disability process, then the backlog of VA claims.

The sad reality is that a lot of Vets will never get any help period, never mind appropriate therapy that will improve their lives. Money can only fix so much. Maybe we should think of that before we launch the next endless, pointless war.

Dusty

April 19th, 2012
11:48 am

More interesting news this morning. Seems Baxter, a bio-science company, is planning to build a facility east of Atlanta near Social Circle.. When completed, there will be over a thousand more jobs in Georgia. It will take a few years to get going but the plans are definite.

Somebody is getting more jobs for Georgia and I believe it is Gov. Deal. As evidenced by the promising results under his direction, he is making a good leader. The governor is kinda quiet but he’s working. That’s the way to do it.

Dusty

April 19th, 2012
12:00 pm

AquaGirl, 11:34

We can always argue about endless, pointless wars or we can argue about everlasting oppression and killing fields & camps, a hard choice to consider.

We see our wounded vets and others who sacrificed so much. Then we see that we are free people and others are freed, that freedom given by sacrifice.

Too bad that we have to make such decisions with seemingly no other choices.

JDW

April 19th, 2012
12:07 pm

Hummm….here we have a noble wonderful idea. One that we should pursue, but of course it, like all such ideas requires funds. Kyle’s solution….CUT INCOME TAXES….isn’t that the very philosophy that caused our current budget debacle in the first place?

Rafe Hollister

April 19th, 2012
12:11 pm

JDW
isn’t that the very philosophy that caused our current budget debacle in the first place?

NO! that would be the slow economy, caused by the housing crisis.

MrLiberty

April 19th, 2012
12:15 pm

The best way to help wounded soldiers is to stop creating more of them. Bring every single one home to america to defend america. All of their sacrifices have been for the military/banking/industrial complex and certainly NOT in the defense of this nation. Our greatest threat comes from within via the Federal government and not from without via “terrorists.”

Dearie

April 19th, 2012
12:15 pm

Great column Kyle.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
12:19 pm

Thank you’s to those who expressed their condolences. They are appreciated.

While I cannot speak for Kyle, I do not believe he meant to eliminate or cut the income tax without shifting it to something else, although if there were an associated cut in expenditures somewhere, maybe he did.

New business startups or relocations look for favorable tax policies as one of their criteria. An income tax that hits their bottom line, when the states north and south of us do not have one, simply puts us in a less favorable light.

I wouldn’t read much more into it than that.

Dusty

April 19th, 2012
12:21 pm

No, JDW, cutting income taxes did not cause our current budget debacle in the first place. It was the waste and enlargement of government that caused much of it. That, and the assumption, that somehow our government was supposed to be wet nurse, babysitter, medicine man, bank director, car manufacturer and mortgage provider. Governance became the expensive “almighty”.

Our taxes would be sufficient without waste and the growth of government power. Keep the tax cuts!

Aquagirl

April 19th, 2012
12:47 pm

An income tax that hits their bottom line, when the states north and south of us do not have one, simply puts us in a less favorable light.

The state South of us has something called Disney World plus other tourist moneymaking machines. They also receive huge hidden Federal subsidies via the population….Social Security and Medicare dollars flow into Florida at a disproportionate rate.

The state North of us has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, including the 5.5% on food. Their largest cash crop is marijuana, which obviously provides a tax-free boost to the economy.

Of course businesses want to shift the tax burden from their bottom line onto somebody else. They’d love NO taxes, who wouldn’t want that? But somebody’s gotta pay for the educated workers and infrastructure required by business. Using disabled Vets as a front for this agenda is sick.

Kyle Wingfield

April 19th, 2012
12:49 pm

Tiberius @ 12:19: First, let me add my condolences to the ones others have expressed. Suicides by veterans are a very real, very tragic problem. I hope the Georgia Warrior Alliance’s efforts to provide more counseling, and hope generally, to veterans will be a help to others.

Second, you are right about taxes: Georgia is a balanced-budget state, so it was not part of JDW’s “budget debacle” and cannot run red ink (aside from borrowing through the bond process, but there are limits to what can be done there). So we either have to raise taxes elsewhere to make up the difference — which is why I have lamented the small-ball tax “reform” the Legislature passed this year as a missed opportunity — or cut spending. With the amounts of money we are talking about, the former is far more likely.

Jefferson

April 19th, 2012
12:58 pm

What the state does is cut the quality and quantity of the services they should provide it citizens.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
1:03 pm

Thanks on the first, Kyle, and agreed on the second.

I also think the biggest thing missing from people who are commenting on regarding your column is the private partnership nature to which you write. While I obviously believe that government plays a role in this issue due to these Veteran’s service, there is no mistaking the additional good that private philanthropic companies and owners can do to help as well.

Congratulations on looking at the root causals of these organization’s involvement, even if others cannot see it due to their partisan blinders being firmly in place.

Kyle Wingfield

April 19th, 2012
1:29 pm

Aquagirl @ 12:47: You’re way overstating matters when you accuse anyone of “using disabled vets as a front for this agenda.”

Helping wounded soldiers is an effort that is independent of the tax piece. The two are related only in the respect that, if the research into and treatment of soldiers’ injuries were to develop later into a broader industry, we might be hindering its progress if we keep the tax code the way it is.

So, if A leads to B, then C, then changing the tax code might help us get to D — but that doesn’t mean it was a precondition, or underlying motive, for A.

Kyle Wingfield

April 19th, 2012
1:30 pm

Tiberius @ 1:03: Exactly.

MrLiberty

April 19th, 2012
1:43 pm

When WW2 ended 10 million men came back to the US and we saw the greatest economic booms in our history. The primary reason was that government spending was cut by 60% as were taxes. The same must be done today, starting with military spending since virtually none of it goes to defense.

Kyle Wingfield

April 19th, 2012
1:59 pm

Road, and anyone else interested: The website is still in the works, but if you’re on Facebook they have a page you can check out.

Lt Dan

April 19th, 2012
2:03 pm

My two cents worth:

Don’t forget the nasty recession from 1945 through 1947. Between 1945 and 1946, GDP dropped just over 10% due to huge cuts in government spending (hey, we won the war, so the government could stop purchasing guns,bullets, tanks, aircraft, etc.), and then dishcharging millions of personnel gluting the workforce.

But you are correct in that once factories re-tooled, personnel used the GI Bill to get higher education, and entrepreneurs in the housing industry, the economic boom from 1948 through the 60’s was unheralded in our economic history at that point.

But then the bubble burst (as it does), and there was another bad recession in the early 60′ that the market had to adjust to.

Interestingly enough, both President Truman and President Kennedy (both Democrats), got congress to approve tax cuts that did help stimulate their respective economies. Tax cuts are not a total solution, but they do help better than government spending. In the end, it is and always will be the private sector that produces economic growth and prosperity.

And also, as for the Department of Defense: I am always in favor of first confirming what missions we need our armed forces to perform, and then to give them everything then need to accomplish those missions. No more Valley Forges or Task Force Smiths.

Aquagirl

April 19th, 2012
2:22 pm

So, if A leads to B, then C, then changing the tax code might help us get to D — but that doesn’t mean it was a precondition, or underlying motive, for A.

This still doesn’t make sense. As I understand it, the idea is having high-tech medical advances in proximity to wounded/recovering vets. But Ft. Benning and Warm Springs are a long way from traffic choked Atlanta. (BTW, until a few days ago those Vets could look forward to a two hour wait to park at the VA on Clairmont. Physical proximity is not all it’s cracked up to be when there is no mass transit—another thing that would add to the quality of life for the disabled. But I digress.) Why not advocate this Center in income-tax free Florida? It’s about equidistant from Benning and has some spectacular springs.

If you want lower taxes on biomedical industries because you love the troops, lower them. But advocating a statewide break for all businesses including places like QT and Acme Widgets, Inc? Call me suspicious, but I’m not buying the motives of all supporters. The “I support the troops” meme has been abused beyond belief. Someone picking up the lower taxes on businesses crap and stapling that on…ugh.

Kyle Wingfield

April 19th, 2012
2:34 pm

Aquagirl: It’s cause and effect. If you can build up the facilities to treat vets, you will in turn build up your research capabilities. If you build up your research capabilities, you will attract more research funding (both philanthropic and commercial … and, yes, probably more public money, too). If you attract more research funding, you will have more opportunities for commercialization … but by the time you reach that point, you have to consider how you keep the commercialization here in the state instead of watching the research be used — and the jobs created — elsewhere. The latter is happening far too often already.

So, you do the programs for vets because it’s the right thing to do, and because we have natural reasons for doing so (Georgia’s huge veteran population, existing research and treatment facilities, etc.). But I see nothing wrong with also saying, “Hey, down the road this could really turn into a new industry for our state, and we should look at changing some policies if that will help.” That’s what I was trying to get at with my A-B-C-D illustration.

LeeH1

April 19th, 2012
2:42 pm

I know the people really are sincere about supporting our troops when they are willing to raise taxes to give them good care and to support the veterans and their families.

Idiots who place a “I support our troops” magnetic sticker on their car, but want to cut taxes and services for troops, their families and the veterans, are just chicken hawk fools.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

April 19th, 2012
2:46 pm

LeeH1 will never get the theme of this article.

Never.