WalletHub, a site that offers financial tools and advice, just released its annual ranking of the best and worst states for military retirees, and with it, a whole slew of findings that veterans should consider when selecting a place to live, like which ones have the best healthcare, most jobs, and most affordable housing. After all, once retired, veterans can choose where to live, instead of waiting for orders.
For instance, Republican states are more friendly to veterans than Democratic ones, according to WalletHub. Additionally, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Vermont were found to have the most job opportunities for veterans.
To determine the best and worst states for military retirement, WalletHub’s analysts compared all 50 states and Washington, D.C., across three dimensions: Economic environment, quality of life, and health care.
The top five states:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
The five worst states:
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- Washington, D.C.
To get more granular, these rankings were also influenced by the size of the veteran population in each state, the number of Veterans Affairs facilities, job opportunities for veterans, and housing affordability.
Ask the Experts
Members of the armed forces deserve a comfortable retirement in exchange for their brave sacrifices. But it’s not easy to readjust to civilian life. For insight and advice on overcoming challenges faced by veteran retirees, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Should veterans have to pay taxes on retirement pay?
- What are the most underutilized military retirement benefits?
- What should veterans consider in choosing where to retire?
- What are the best economic opportunities for retired military personnel looking for a new career?
- How can the VA health-care system be improved to better serve veterans and their families?
- How should the government help the military community?
In order to determine the best and worst states for military retirement, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Economic Environment, 2) Quality of Life and 3) Health Care.
We evaluated those dimensions using 22 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for military retirees. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we measured the “number of veterans” by the square root of the veteran population in order to avoid overcompensating for small differences among states, considering Veterans Administration (VA) facilities have not increased proportionally with the number of veterans.
We then calculated the total score for each state and the District based on its weighted average across all metrics and used the resulting scores to construct our final ranking.
Economic Environment – Total Points: 33.33
- State Tax on Military Pension: Double Weight (~6.06 Points)
- Tax-Friendliness: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s Tax Rates by State report.
- Share of Veteran-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Dollars in Defense Department Contracts per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Job Opportunities for Veterans: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- State Authorization for Veterans’ Preference in Private Hiring: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a state statute authorizing private employers to implement a veteran-employment preference without vulnerability to claims of discrimination.
- Job Growth (2016 vs. 2015): Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Number of Military Bases & Installations per 100,000 Veterans: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
- Cost-of-Living Index: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33
- Share of Veterans: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Share of VA Benefits-Administration Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Quality of University System: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
Note: This metric is based on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings.
- Arts, Leisure & Recreation Establishments per Capita: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Share of Population Aged 40 & Older: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Share of Homeless Veterans: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
- Idealness of Weather: Full Weight (~4.76 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s Cities with the Best & Worst Weather ranking.
Health Care – Total Points: 33.33
- Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Double Weight (~11.11 Points)
- Federal, State, Local & Private Hospitals per Capita: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Physicians per Capita: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Quality of VA Hospitals: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Veterans Health Administration’s Hospital Report Card and measures patients’ willingness to recommend the state’s VA hospitals.
- Presence of Veteran-Treatment Courts: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
Note: This metric considers the presence or absence of veteran-treatment courts, programs that provide treatment and mentoring services to veterans with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in order to keep them out of the criminal justice system and help stabilize their lives.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Military Officers Association of America, USAspending.gov, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, MilitaryINSTALLATIONS – U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. News & World Report, Gallup Healthways, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Indeed and WalletHub research.
For more information on the rankings, visit WalletHub.com.
Sarah Sicard is a staff writer with Task & Purpose. After attending Hofstra University in 2014 and earning degrees in journalism and political science, she spent time as a defense reporter, covering technology and procurement. Before joining Task & Purpose, she worked for a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C. She comes from three generations of service members in both the Army and the Navy.