The Best and Worst States for Retired U.S. Veterans
The average age for a retiring U.S. military officer is just 47 years old – 43 for non-disability enlisted personnel – meaning that a retired veteran has many years of life ahead of him or her after retiring. Many choose to start new careers, continue their education, or even start their own business. In any case, the ability to easily access the benefits their service has earned them, especially in health care, is an important factor in their life after Expiration of Active Obligated (EAOS).
We recently started a series showcasing veteran benefits in some of the nation’s largest cities, like Chicago and Houston. But how do all 50 states and the District of Columbia rank overall in terms of best and worst locations for military veterans? Veterans often have the opportunity to move anywhere they choose when they end their service; many have seen several posts and bases across the nation. How can they find the best home for their time transitioning back into civilian life?
In 2016, the website WalletHub conducted an extensive research study into analyzing just that, using a set of 20 key questions in three main areas, giving each state a score from 0 to 100, and then weighting the scores to reduce the impact of population and other differences that could skew results. Topics analyzed included:
- Economic Environment: Amount of state tax on military pensions, percentage of veteran-owned businesses, veteran job opportunities, cost of living index, housing affordability, and more.
- Quality of Life: Number of veterans per capita, number of VA benefits administration facilities per number of veterans, university system ranking, number of homeless veterans per number of veterans, recreation and arts in the area, and more.
- Health Care: Number of VA health facilities per number of veterans, number of physicians per capita, feedback on veterans’ rankings of local VA facilities, number of non-VA hospitals per capita, and more.
After giving each state an overall score, with 100 being the best and 0 being the worst, a ranked list was published. The top 10 best states for military retirees, based on their combined scores for economic environment, quality of life, and heath care, were:
The worst 10 states for military retirees, based on their combined scores for economic environment, quality of life, and heath care, were:
- New York
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
The study also pulled out some interesting sub-rankings and statistics, such as:
- The states with the most veterans per capita are Alaska, Montana, and Maine.
- The states with the most VA health facilities per 10,000 veterans were New York, Wyoming, and California.
- The states with the highest number of homeless veterans were Nevada, California, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. Perhaps not surprisingly, California, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii were also ranked as the states with the least affordable housing.
- The states with the most veteran job opportunities were Iowa, Indiana, and Hawaii.
- The states with the highest percentage of veteran-owned businesses were South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia.
Once you’ve narrowed down the state you feel would be best for you and your family, or simply seen how your current state ranks, you can begin exploring veteran resources in your area. There are often many benefits that you may not even be aware of, just waiting for you to take advantage of. For example, for senior veterans and surviving spouses needing assistance on a daily basis with activities of daily living, there’s actually an “Aid and Attendance” Benefit that the U.S. government will provide to help defer costs. For more resources, rankings, and helpful free information for veterans and veteran families, visit veteranaid.org.
Written by Megan Hammons