Wallet Hub: 2020’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

According to the Veterans Association, there are over 19.5 million veterans currently living in the U.S. These veterans often face a host of challenges when re-entering civilian life. Despite Uncle Sam’s promises to provide health care as well as housing, employment and educational assistance upon their return from service, some cannot secure healthcare, jobs or shelter.

Although unemployment and homelessness declined nationally for veterans in recent years, the unemployment rate has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic and there were already over 37,000 homeless veterans even before the pandemic. Some states offer better conditions for those who have served our country, though.

To help military veterans find the best places in which to settle down, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key indicators of livability, affordability and veteran-friendliness. They range from share of military skill-related jobs to veteran income growth to availability of VA health facilities. Read on for our findings, expert commentary from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

Source: WalletHub

 

Best Cities for Veterans Worst Cities for Veterans
1. Orlando, FL 91. New York, NY
2. Irvine, CA 92. Fresno, CA
3. Tampa, FL 93. Anaheim, CA
4. Raleigh, NC 94. Jersey City, NJ
5. Austin, TX 95. Long Beach, CA
6. Colorado Springs, CO 96. Baltimore, MD
7. Virginia Beach, VA 97. Memphis, TN
8. Scottsdale, AZ 98. Baton Rouge, LA
9. Gilbert, AZ 99. Newark, NJ
10. Minneapolis, MN 100. Detroit, MI

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

“How good or bad a city is for veterans depends on factors like the rates of homelessness, unemployment and poverty for veterans, as well as the city’s retirement-friendliness and the quality of its VA facilities. To be clear, all cities should be quick to take care of veterans’ needs, considering all of the sacrifices they have had to make in order to serve the country and keep it safe. But some cities spend sufficient money on veterans affairs while others do not, whether because they lack the funds to do so or because veterans receive a lower priority in the budget,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “While cities do have a responsibility to their veterans, we also need to look critically at the federal government. We spend a vast amount of money on military operations and national defense, yet comparatively little on helping veterans once their service is done. We have tens of thousands of homeless veterans, and that number should be reduced to zero.”

What can we do to reduce the financial stress on military families?

“We can reduce the financial stress on military families by making sure that anyone in a war zone does not have to even think about their family’s basic living expenses while they’re fighting for our country or in the event that something happens to them when doing so. We can also do a much better job of educating members of the military community on the best practices for financial planning,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Military families can undergo an incredible amount of financial stress, especially when one parent is on the front lines and cannot help with managing the family’s finances. Service members who are in active conflicts put their lives at risk, which could place even more of a financial burden on their family if they die or become disabled. The least we can do for our military families is make sure their basic needs are taken care of.”

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

“The military does not do enough to promote financial literacy among service members. Not only do 74% of Americans agree that the military is lacking when it comes to financial literacy education, according to WalletHub’s 2020 Military Money Survey, but nearly 1 in 2 people think it’s a national security issue. Financially literate people who serve in the military can worry less about money problems and focus more on their duties, and are also less susceptible to coercion by foreign powers,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “But it’s important to remember that the military is not alone in its financial literacy deficiency. Most employers and big organizations in the U.S. fail to provide adequate information as well. Even schools don’t give students enough financial education.”

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a big spike in veteran unemployment, which was at 5.9% in October, compared to the nearly historic low of 3.2% seen in 2019,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The pandemic is certain to increase homelessness among veterans, adding to the more than 37,000 veterans who were already homeless before it even started. There are millions of veterans who are over age 65, too, and 8 of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among people in that age group.”

Methodology

In order to determine the best places for veterans to live, WalletHub compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities across four key dimensions: 1) Employment, 2) Economy, 3) Quality of Life and 4) Health.

We evaluated those dimensions using 20 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 veterans. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities. Data for metrics marked with two asterisks (**) were available at state level only.

Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case, excluding surrounding cities in the metro area.

Employment – Total Points: 25

  • Share of Military Skill-Related Jobs: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
  • Veteran Unemployment Rate: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
  • Job Growth: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the average annual rate of job growth between years 2015 and 2019.
  • Veteran-Owned Businesses per Veteran Population: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)

Economy – Total Points: 25

  • Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This composite metric comprises the following calculations: Median Home Price / Median Annual Veteran’s Income and Median Annual Rent Price / Median Annual Veteran’s Income.
  • Veteran Income Growth: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the average annual rate of veteran income growth between years 2014 and 2019.
  • Share of Veterans Living in Poverty: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)
  • Educational Opportunities: Half Weight (~1.47 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges for Veterans” ranking.
  • Median Veteran Income: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)
    Note: This metric was adjusted for the local cost of living.
  • Homeless Veterans per 1,000 Veterans: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)

Quality of Life – Total Points: 25

  • Veteran Population: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
    Note: “Veteran Population” refers to the number of veterans per 1,000 residents.
  • Projected Veteran Population Growth: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the projected increase in the veteran population between years 2019 and 2045.
  • Family-Friendliness: Double Weight (~7.14 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Places to Raise a Family” ranking.
  • Retiree-Friendliness: Double Weight (~7.14 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Places to Retire” ranking.
  • Restaurants That Offer Military Discounts per Veteran Population*: Half Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Arts & Entertainment Establishments That Offer Military Discounts per Veteran Population*: Half Weight (~1.79 Points)

Health – Total Points: 25

  • WalletHub’s “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” Score: Triple Weight (~9.38 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” ranking.
  • VA Benefits Administration Facilities per Veteran Population**: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
    Note: The square root of the veteran population was used to calculate its size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
  • VA Health Facilities per Veteran Population**: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
    Note: The square root of the veteran population was used to calculate its size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
  • Quality of VA Health Facilities: Triple Weight (~9.38 Points)
    Note: This composite metric includes:

    • “Patients’ Willingness to Recommend the Veteran Hospitals” score from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Hospital Report Card”
    • VA hospital performance star rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning” (SAIL) performance improvement tool
    • VA hospital and nursing-home beds data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ database of inpatient beds by facility

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. News & World Report, Yelp and WalletHub research.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top