Florida topped the ranking for best places to live for retired military families, followed by South Carolina and Virginia, driven by factors such as healthcare, favorable tax policies and a strong job market.
Oregon came in last place, while the District of Columbia ranked 50th and Nevada ranked 49th, according to a study by WalletHub.
WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their ability to provide a comfortable military retirement. The analysis used a data set of 28 key metrics, ranging from veterans per capita to number of VA health facilities to job opportunities for veterans.
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“The biggest differentiators between the best and worst states are related more to the economic environment and the quality of life than to existing policies. More specifically, the top states have more veteran-owned businesses and a lower cost of living. There are also more homeless veterans and/or veterans that receive SNAP benefits in states ranked toward the bottom,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.
Florida grabbed the top spot for a number of reasons.
“Florida ranks highly in terms of tax-friendliness, as it exempts both military retired pay and survivor benefit plan payments from taxation. The state also counts military service towards college credit, authorizes veterans’ preference in private hiring and had an almost 6% job growth in the past year,” Gonzalez said.
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Other factors that contributed to Florida’s top ranking included the large number of VA benefits administration and VA health facilities, as well as the presence of veteran treatment programs for mental health and substance abuse, she said.
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The study results come on the heels of a recent NAACP Florida travel advisory, saying the state’s recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African-Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
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Among the low-ranking states, Gonzalez said many of those states “tend to lack housing affordability, which leads to some of the biggest percentages of homeless veterans. Some of these states also have very high veteran suicide rates.”
Virginia and South Carolina had the highest percentage of veteran-owned businesses, WalletHub found. Arkansas and Virginia had the lowest percentage of homeless veterans. Meanwhile, New York and California topped the list of states with the greatest number of VA health facilities per number of veterans.
States that voted for Republican candidates in the 2020 presidential election, or so-called red states, are more favorable to military families, WalletHub said.
As far as housing affordability, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas topped the list, while California came in at the bottom. In terms of job opportunities for veterans, North Dakota led the rankings, followed by the District of Columbia and South Dakota. Nevada had the fewest.
Alaska has the most veterans per capita, followed by Maine and Montana. New Jersey came in last.
“Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging, so it is crucial to choose a location with a supportive community, ideally one where friends and family are nearby,” said Colin Slabach, clinical assistant professor, faculty lead for the masters in financial planning program at New York University.
“Veterans should think about living in areas where their military-acquired skills are valued by local employers. It is also important that these locations offer robust veteran services and easy access to quality healthcare,” Slabach said.
To explore other areas to retire, check out the MarketWatch’s Where Should I Retire? column