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Best Cities for Veterans to Live

Deciding where to plant roots can be a huge decision for Veterans and military families, and active duty service members who are soon to be leaving the military can face even more pressure to quickly make a potentially life-changing decision.

To help Veterans, service members and military families plan their next steps, Veterans United put together a list of the Best Places for Veterans to Live. We’ve conducted a comprehensive analysis of 25 different factors, surveying 601 Veterans to determine our weighting system based on real Veteran opinions. We then scored 507 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Micropolitan Statistical Areas (μSAs) across all 50 states based on these Veteran-determined weights and factors.

Local Veterans United Realty agents from our top cities also share their insights into what makes their markets ideal places for Veterans to live.

Learn more about how we scored each city in our methodology.
Within this Article

Note: For the purpose of creating a diverse geographic list, we’ve limited each state to one city appearance per Top 10 list. See the unfiltered list.

Best Cities for Veterans to Live

1. Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater, FL

Topping our Best Cities for Veterans list is the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, which includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. This MSA scored the highest of our top 10 in our Quality of Life category, and it’s not difficult to see why. Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater have plenty of day and nighttime activities to appeal to all ages, from multiple amusement parks to museums, theaters and beautiful sandy beaches. This MSA topped the list by averaging higher in the categories that Veterans designated as most important in our survey, which included factors like access to fresh foods, median air quality, and quality of healthcare facilities. The state of Florida also scored high for having no income tax and favorable property tax exemptions for Veterans with disabilities, while also having above-average pre-K-12 state scores.

The clear blue skies, sunshine, and balmy winds are No.1 in Tampa. There are also many different types of home settings within Tampa and the surrounding areas. Buyers can choose to live at the beach, in the country, in the city, or in the suburbs. The State offers many benefits to Veterans and service members, including reduced or a 100% exemption from property taxes, motor vehicle fees, access to County parks, and education fees.”

Amy Camasso Realtor, CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises

2. Rochester, MN

No. 2 on our Best Cities for Veterans list is Rochester, Minnesota. Located in the southeast corner of the state, Rochester is known for its rolling hills and historical monuments. If you enjoy all four seasons and like to spend time in nature, Rochester may be a city you want to consider. Among all Top 10 cities, Rochester was rated highest for the number of physicians available and for overall access to health care and facilities, which includes both VA benefits and health buildings per Veteran, the quality rating of health facilities, and the number of physicians per capita. Rochester also had the lowest crime rate of the Top 10, which Veterans ranked as the most important variable according to our survey. The only notable drawbacks are that the state of Minnesota does not fully exempt taxes on military retirement pay or fully exempt disabled Veterans from property taxes.

Rochester started as a farm community, so it’s fairly flat here. There’s a lot of biking and some water areas. You may have to travel a little, but the Mississippi River is about 45 minutes away. Lake Zumbro is about 25 minutes away and is the closest large body of water that people visit to boat, kayak, enjoy water sports, campgrounds and restaurants.”

Matt Ulland ReMax Results, Real Estate Agent

3. Wichita Falls, TX

Located near the Texas–Oklahoma border is No. 3 on our list: Wichita Falls, Texas. Wichita Falls is the smallest MSA to make our Best Cities for Veterans list, with a population of 102,664 for the city itself and 129,899 for the area. The median home listing price is $214,625, which is part of the reason why Wichita Falls ranked above the other cities in the Top 10 for financial well-being and also has the second-best cost of living score among the Top 10. Wichita Falls also scored best of all the cities for community support, which considers the size of the Veteran community, its growth and some of the local resources available. This city might be for you if you enjoy warm weather year-round and a small but supportive community feel. And for the occasional big-city excursion, don’t worry – Dallas and Oklahoma City are both a two-hour drive away.

4. Fargo, ND-MN

At No. 4 for Best Cities for Veterans is the Fargo, North Dakota–Minnesota metro area. Fargo scored well for having the highest number of VA health facilities per capita. Fargo also had some of the best rankings for the quality of VA health facilities in the area. With a combined population of 186,430, the Fargo MSA offers a small-town feel with a surprising number of unique activities and historical sites. You could visit the Plains Art Museum, home to more than 4,000 local and national works, or see a live wrestling match at Below Zero, which caters to all ages. Fargo also has beloved theaters, boutiques, wineries and several parks. If you’re looking to live in a smaller town with plenty to do, Fargo may be the city for you.

There are a lot of opportunities in Fargo for jobs. Fargo is the biggest city between Minneapolis and Seattle, so there are some advantages. There’s also plenty to do. Fargo is about an hour from the Minnesota lakes, where many visit to go fishing and hunting. There are residents who have summer lake homes that visit for a weekend and then drive home.

Safety is another factor that makes it a great place to live. Fargo is a city where you feel like you can raise your kids and a place where they can ride their bikes.”

Randy Clark ReMax Legacy Realty, Associate Real Estate Agent

5. Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News, VA-NC

Coming in at No. 5 is the Hampton Roads metropolis, comprised of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News, Virginia. This MSA also comprises some of the smaller nearby North Carolina communities and is located at the water-facing boundary between the two states. This area scored No. 2 on our Top 10 list in the community support category and No. 1 for having the most significant Veteran population growth of the list. These waterfront cities are known for their lush woods, clear beaches and diverse festivals, celebrating everything from strawberries to jazz. You can also find multiple state parks, outdoor ziplining and climbing, an aquarium and plenty more. Overall, Virginia Beach and its surrounding areas are a great option for a Veteran-friendly area with plenty of activities.

What makes Virginia Beach, and the Hampton Roads area in general, a great place to live is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re into history, we have it in abundance, including military history. There’s always something to explore, like Jamestown, Yorktown, Colonial Williamsburg, Wisconsin at Nauticus and so much more.

We also have water in almost every direction. Some of the local popular things to do are kayaking, sailing and surfing, as well as family favorites like dolphin and whale watching tours. The Oceanfront and the Chesapeake Bay are popular destinations for beach days and often filled with festivals and live music.”

Alyson Sisman Realtor, The Real Estate Home Team at The Real Estate Group

6. Watertown–Fort Drum, NY

At No. 6 on our list is the MSA comprised of Watertown and Fort Drum, New York. Located at the very top of the state, this MSA is about a 45-minute drive to the Canadian border. Watertown is known for its close-knit neighborhoods, whitewater river rafting and ski resort, while Fort Drum is famous for its full-spectrum training Army base. This MSA is small, with a total population of just 143,332 – and the individual cities themselves are much smaller, with sub-30,000 populations. The MSA has the second-most affordable median home listing price on our Top 10 list at $225,450. Watertown-Fort Drum beat all the other cities on our list for having the lowest energy consumption and was a close second for best air quality. The MSA also scored very well for its low crime rate and high number of VA benefits facilities.

We are pretty well known for outdoor and recreational activities. We have a lot of hunting opportunities that people from all over the world travel to Watertown for.

1000 Islands is also near Watertown, NY, where residents can experience the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There are castles, cruises, cycling, paddling, culinary and craft beverages and winter activities. There’s a lot of tourist options and outdoor things to do along with vacationing spots.”

Mandy Hanners Associate Broker, Keller Williams

7. Charleston–North Charleston, SC

The MSA of Charleston and North Charleston, South Carolina, is No. 7 on our list of Best Cities for Veterans. These cities are known for their colorful French quarter-style buildings, historical landmarks and beautiful white sandy beaches. This area offers everything from climbing walls to coastal expedition boat rides, and there are plenty of delicious Southern fusion dining options to enjoy. If you like warm temperatures and spending time at the beach, this area might suit you. This MSA scored well for access to fresh food and high in the health care and facilities and quality of life categories. This MSA also got points for having a high Veteran population and great air quality. One of the downsides of the Charleston–North Charleston MSA is that it ranked high (in relative comparison) to our other cities for violent crime rates.

Charleston is a unicorn – it is different from everywhere else. It’s beautiful and historic. There are lots of outdoor activities, including beaches and golf courses, and it's affordable.

The city offers preowned homes where you can feel the vibe and new construction options where you don’t have to drop $1 million. There’s also a good restaurant scene, there’s always something new popping up.”

Courtney Ayers-Tedford Realtor, Carolina One Real Estate

8. Medford, OR

At No. 8 on our Best Cities for Veterans list is Medford, Oregon, located in the state's lower southwest region. Medford is on the smaller side, with a city population of only 85,556 and a total MSA population of 223,660, which includes Jackson County and the cities of Ashland and Central Point. Gorgeous rivers, mountains, forests and lakes backdrop the city, so if you love to be in and around nature, this is an area you should consider. Medford topped our Top 10 list for average air quality and access to fresh food overall. It also scored well for low levels of violent crime and a low average cost of living. An area in which Medford scored lower than the other cities on our list was for its pre-K-12 education scores, as Oregon was ranked No. 42 of all the states for education. Oregon state also does not entirely exempt military retirement pay from income tax.

9. Altoona, PA

No. 9 on our Best Cities for Veterans list is Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona is a smaller-paced city with a population of just 43,071, while the overall MSA population is 165,729. Altoona offers beautiful trails, skiing and a renowned Railroaders Memorial Museum to honor railroaders' contributions throughout Pennsylvania. Of all the cities on our Top 10 list, Altoona had the lowest gas rates, the highest quality of VA health facilities, and the lowest median home listing price of all our towns at just $129,950. Altoona also scored high for access to fresh foods and overall financial well-being. Pennsylvania also scored well for road conditions and transportation infrastructure, with the seventh-highest acceptable road conditions across the states. The only downside to Altoona was that it rated lower for air quality in comparison to the other cities.

While Altoona maintains its small-town charm, it's conveniently located within driving distance of larger metropolitan areas like Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. This proximity provides residents with access to additional employment opportunities, cultural experiences, and entertainment options.”

Christie Smick Broker/Owner, 814 Realty Group, Inc.

10. Sioux Falls, SD

Rounding out the Top 10 on our Best Cities for Veterans list is Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Located at the converging Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota borders, the city is aptly named after the many waterfalls flowing throughout the city. Sioux Falls offers various activities, from bike trials to indoor gaming to its highly rated butterfly house and aquarium. Sioux Falls beat out all the other cities on the Top 10 list for having the best cost of living and lowest rate of Veteran unemployment overall. Sioux Falls also ranked second for the health care and facilities category out of all of the evaluated cities. Compared to the other cities on our list, Sioux Falls scored lower in terms of air quality and access to fresh foods.

Sioux Falls is known for being a big, small town. There’s an affordable, strong job market, no state income tax, highly rated public schools and plenty of outdoor recreation. People travel to Sioux Falls from all over the world to hunt and fish.”

Casey Hatch Realtor/Broker Associate, Keller Williams Realty Sioux Falls

Best Small Cities for Veterans to Live

Our Best Small Cities for Veterans list was curated from the cities that were smaller than our top 100 MSAs by population. This includes a mix of medium-sized metros as well as our smallest micropolitan areas. For Veterans who want to plant roots in a smaller community, we recommend the nearby towns outside of the primary city limit.

1. Rochester, MN

No. 1 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list is Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester is located in the southeast corner of the state and is about an hour and a half drive from Minneapolis. Rochester scored second on this list for having the least violent crime per capita and had the highest physician count per capita of all the Top 10 Small Cities. The city also had the third-lowest Veteran unemployment rate on the list. Rochester has a population of 121,878, with a total MSA population of 275,390 and a median home listing price of $399,950.

Rochester has been, over the years, rated one of the top communities in the country for quality of life. It’s Minnesota, but we have months of nice summer weather and don’t always have bitter winters. There’s lots of access to outside activities, kayaking, biking, fishing, and boating that is in abundance here. It is the land of 10,000 lakes. Rochester also has world-class medical care access. The Mayo Clinic has a plan to develop facilities and they are trying to be forward-thinking. There’s significant growth planned for the area in the future."

Matt Ulland ReMax Results, Real Estate Agent

2. Wichita Falls, TX

No. 2 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list is Wichita Falls, TX. Wichita Falls had the third-best average cost of living rate of all the small cities. This area also was well rated for having good road infrastructure and ranked above the other small cities on the Top 10 list for our financial well-being category. Wichita Falls also ranked first of all the small cities in the Community Support category. Wichita Falls was the second smallest city on our Top 10 list, with a city population of 102,664 and a total MSA population of 129,889, making it a great option for Veterans looking to live in a small, quiet area that still has a tight-knit community.

3. Fargo, ND-MN

The Fargo, North Dakota/Minnesota area is No. 3 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list. Fargo ranked above the other small cities for the number of VA benefits facilities available and access to fresh food. The city of Fargo has a population of 131,444 and a combined surrounding population of 186,430. The median home price is 365,500. Though the area is small, there’s not an absence of things to do. Enjoy one of the many parks or nature trails, visit the Red River Market on Saturdays in the summer, or catch a show at the Fargo Theatre, a nostalgic theater dripping with history.

Fargo is a good place to raise a family and for recreation. It has beautiful summers and barely gets above 90 degrees. Veterans and service members in the area are growing families and maintaining their military service there. There are a lot of service members who stay in the Guard and build toward their 20 years. There is a big active National Guard presence and there’s an Air Force base about 70 miles away.”

Randy Clark ReMax Legacy Realty, Associate Real Estate Agent

4. Punta Gorda, FL

No. 4 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list is the quiet city of Punta Gorda, located on Florida’s west coast. Punta Gorda is a haven of sunny skies and mild weather that seldom drops below 50 degrees, making it a great smaller city for Veterans to live in and a great option for Veterans to retire—especially since Florida does not tax income, which includes military retirement pay. Punta Gorda ranked well on our list for having a low violent and property crime rate as well as a low Veteran unemployment rate. The city offers beautiful, less crowded beaches and unique attractions like the Peace River Wildlife Center and Military Heritage Museum.

5. Watertown-Fort Drum, NY

The MSA comprising Watertown and Fort Drum, New York, is No. 5 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list. Watertown-Fort Drum ranked third on the Top 10 Small Cities list for lowest median listing price at $225,450, and it also was the list’s third-best MSA by air quality. This MSA has a collective population of 143,332, but the actual populations of Watertown and Fort Drum themselves are 24,451 and 16,298, respectively. This makes the Watertown area an ideal spot to live for Veterans who want an especially small-town feel.

We are pretty well known for outdoor and recreational activities. We have a lot of hunting opportunities. People from all over the world travel to Watertown for it. At the foothill of the Thompson Park Interdimensional Vortex, there are a lot of ATV trails and other outdoor activities for residents to enjoy. The Finger Lakes region is also within two hours of Watertown, NY, which has hotels, restaurants, events, festivals, many wineries and vineyards.”

Mandy Hanners Associate Broker, Keller Williams

6. Medford, OR

Medford, Oregon, ranked sixth on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list. Medford ranked a close second on our list for access to fresh food and grocery stores and topped our Small Cities list for the infrastructure, accessibility and quality of ife category. Medford also ranked well for air quality, the number of VA benefits facilities and its growing Veteran population. Medford had the highest median home listing price of $499,473, compared to the other small cities with a population of 85,556 and a collective MSA population of 223,660. Though Medford is a bit pricier than some of the other small cities on the list, residents can appreciate a Mediterranean climate that’s not as rainy as the rest of the state.

7. Altoona, PA

No. 7 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list is Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona has a population of 43,071 with a combined MSA population of 165,729. The median home listing price is $129,950, the fourth lowest considering all cities overall. Altoona made the list by having the highest overall quality of health facilities from the Top 10, low levels of violent crime, and high access to fresh food and grocery stores. Between the great home prices, the safety of the area, and access to groceries, Altoona is a great contender for small-city-loving Veterans in the Northeast.

Altoona has a tight-knit community with a rich history and a strong sense of pride among its residents. It offers a blend of urban amenities and a small-town atmosphere, providing a comfortable living environment for its residents.

Altoona boasts affordable housing options compared to larger cities, making it an attractive destination for families, young professionals, and retirees alike. The cost of living is generally lower, allowing residents to enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank.”

Christie Smick Broker/Owner, 814 Realty Group, Inc.

8. Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is No. 8 for Best Small Cities for Veterans. Sioux Falls had the lowest average cost of living of the Top 10 small cities, and South Dakota has the second-best employment rate for Veterans of all the states. The city has a median home listing price of $374,975 and a collective MSA population of 336,761, though the population in the city itself is 202,078. Sioux Falls had the highest property and violent crime rates of the Top 10 small cities list, and winters can get particularly cold. But with a lively downtown area, amazing parks and bike trails, and great state-wide benefits for Veterans, Sioux Falls is a great place for Veterans looking for a metro area with a small-town vibe.

The state of South Dakota is extremely Veteran-friendly. In addition to the typical organizations (VA, VFW, American Legion), there are a number of volunteer, grassroots organizations that support Veterans. One of the organizations – The Wings of Valor Lodge – is a commercial world-class pheasant hunting hunting lodge that offers Veterans from across the country, all-expense paid trips. The lodge serves as a gathering place to motivate and empower Veterans and active service members in the outdoors. Other states are trying to emulate what the state has done to support Veterans.”

Casey Hatch Realtor/Broker Associate, Keller Williams Realty Sioux Falls

9. Billings, MT

At No. 9 on our Best Small Cities for Veterans list is Billings, Montana. Billings is backdropped by a beautiful landscape of snowy and dry mountains, rivers and forests. The city is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with impressive outdoor climbing sites, horseback riding, biking trails and white water rafting. Of the Top 10 small cities, Billings had the best air quality and the highest number of VA health facilities per capita. Billings also scored highly for the infrastructure, accessibility, and quality of life category. If you’re interested in a laid-back city where you can easily immerse yourself in nature, Billings is a great choice.

10. Dubuque, IA

No. 10 of the Best Small Cities for Veterans is Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque is located at the northeastern Iowa and Wisconsin border and is known for its combination of hot summers and heavy snowstorms in the winter. Dubuque offers a well-rated ski resort and is home to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Dubuque beat the other small cities on this list for having the lowest violent crime rate and the lowest average cost of living. Dubuque also scored well for having access to fresh food, while Iowa itself has low gas rates and a low Veteran unemployment rate.

One thing that I hear repeatedly from people who move here from bigger cities is how much they like the safety Dubuque brings them. Our crime rates are much better than those of larger cities and I think you can feel that walking down the street or being in your front yard. People like that reassurance.”

Hunter Lisk Realtor, Lisk Realty

Best Big Cities for Veterans to Live

To filter our results for the best big cities for Veterans, we evaluated the top 100 MSAs by population, which includes all MSAs with a population of 550,000 or greater.

1. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Scoring No. 1 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is the Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater, Florida MSA. This MSA is the largest of the Top 10 big cities, with a combined population of 3.2 million. Like our overall Best Cities list, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater performed well on this list for having good access to fresh food, affordable living costs and high-quality VA health facilities. Of the big cities, this MSA ranked first for having the lowest Veteran unemployment rate and second for the lowest crime rate. However, gas costs are pricier in the Tampa metro area than other big cities on this list due to Florida’s higher motor fuel tax rate. This area's median home listing price of $415,500 was also on the higher end compared to our big cities.

In Tampa, there is something for everyone. Whether a buyer is looking for a strong community, good schools, age-restricted communities, active communities, morning walks on the beach, or quieter agricultural areas - you can find it in Tampa.”

Amy Camasso Realtor, CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises

2. San Antonio–New Braunfels, TX

At No. 2 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is the MSA containing San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas. San Antonio is a larger city with many family attractions like theme parks, a zoo and historical sites. New Braunfels is a smaller city known for its leafy forests and the Comal and Guadalupe rivers running through it. If you like to have fun in nature or enjoy unique activities like the 10-day “Wurstfest” every October, this area might be for you. This MSA ranked first among all big cities for having the best average air quality. San Antonio–New Braunfels also ranked highly for having a low cost of living index, great road quality and a high Veteran population. One downside to this MSA is that pre-K-12 education scores in Texas are lower than in many other states on the list.

San Antonio is often a misunderstood place. It has so much to offer beyond the Riverwalk and the Alamo. It is a very outdoorsy and lively city with lots of festivals, bike paths, restaurants, family-friendly activities and history. There are also a lot of Veterans in the Chamber of Commerce and in city government. Veterans are well-represented and receive a lot of recognition. Businesses support Veterans, and there’s a lot of support for veteran-owned businesses like Black Rifle Coffee.”

Karina Gafford Broker Associate/Team Lead, Homefront United Realty Group

3. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

The MSA comprising Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia and North Carolina, is No. 3 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list. Out of the big cities listed, this MSA had the highest level of community support and the third-highest-growing Veteran population. It also had the third-lowest average cost of living of the Best 10 Big Cities for Veterans. This MSA has a collective population of 1.9 million and a median home listing price of $384,504.

Military pride is a part of our culture here in Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area. I am not sure I can truly put into words how deeply it is woven into the fabric of our community.

Let anyone know you are military and they will thank you for your service or relate to you with their own experiences. There’s also a lot of support for military family members. You have a big community here who looks out for one another.”

Alyson Sisman The Real Estate Home Team at The Real Estate Group

4. Charleston-North Charleston, SC

No. 4 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is the Charleston and North Charleston, North Carolina MSA. This area was on the smaller end of our big cities, with a collective population of 813,134. Charleston and North Charleston ranked highly for access to food and air quality. Of the top 10 big cities, this MSA was in one of the lowest-scoring states for pre-K-12 education scores, with South Carolina ranking 40th overall. This area has a median home listing price of $494,500.

Charleston is on the water, so summers are hot and humid, but there are lots of pools and palm trees.

Goose Creek (a city about 30 minutes from Charleston) is home to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command and the Naval Weapons Station. It offers a sparse suburban feel and good schools. Veterans and military personnel like Goose Creek because it is close to the Naval base, and the maritime forest offers outdoor activities.”

Courtney Ayers-Tedford Realtor, Carolina One Real Estate

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Coming in at No. 5 is Salt Lake City, Utah, located in the northern center region of the state. Salt Lake is pretty well known for its ski resorts, but the city also offers multiple zoos, gardens, amusement parks and theaters. Salt Lake City ranked best among the Top 10 Big Cities for access to fresh food and grocery stores. Salt Lake City also had the largest growing population of Veterans. Despite all the positives, Salt Lake City ranked the lowest of the other big cities in the Top 10 in terms of the average cost of living and air quality factors.

What makes Salt Lake City unique is that it has a little bit of everything, so it appeals to a wide group of people. Singles, retirees, families and young couples find SLC a good place to live. It is also very family-oriented, and the state offers outdoor activities from world-class skiing in the winter to fishing, boating, and camping in other months. People travel from all over the world to ski in Utah and attend the Sundance Film Festival.”

Coral Alkashif Sales Agent, Black Diamond Realty

6. Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

No. 6 on the Best Big Cities for Veterans list is the MSA comprised of Nashville, Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin, Tennessee. There’s a wide variety of offerings spread across these four cities, from historical landmarks and famous music venues to museums and plenty of outdoor activities. This is one of the largest MSA on our Top 10 big cities list, with a collective population of 2,186,610. The Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN area scored high for having many VA facilities and the highest number of physicians per capita. This MSA also ranked well for Tennessee’s state support for Veteran higher education. In comparison to the other big cities, this MSA had a higher-than-average median home listing price of $560,243.

7. Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC

At No. 7 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is the Augusta metropolitan area, which comprises Augusta and Richmond County, Georgia. This MSA ranked best of all big cities for its quality of health facilities and ranked fourth overall when considering all cities that we scored. This MSA also ranked very well for its growing Veteran population, low average cost of living and low average crime rate. This area is known for the Augusta Riverwalk and several historical landmarks, including the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson.

8. Wichita, KS

No. 8 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is Wichita, Kansas. Wichita is one of the smaller “Big Cities” on the list, but there is still a notable population of 396,192 in the city itself and 625,879 when considering the overall MSA. Wichita ranked well for having a growing Veteran population, high-quality health facilities and a high level of community support. The median home listing price of $302,450 is also on the lower end compared to the other big cities. The city offers unique experiences, from an underground salt mine museum to Tanganyika Wildlife Park, one of the only places in the country where you can hand-feed lemurs. There are also many seasonal festivals and local boutiques, along with more than 140 parks.

Wichita offers all the perks of a big city without the congestion and stress. It has a great family community, and the locals also show great support for the military. Wichita offers affordable living and is home to many aircraft manufacturers which offer great jobs.”

Michelle Estrada

9. Cleveland–Elyria, OH

Coming in at No. 9 on our Best Big Cities list for Veterans is the MSA comprising Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio. This MSA is located at the southwest end of Lake Erie. In these cities, you can expect to experience all four seasons and a healthy amount of snow – 63 inches per year on average. Cleveland is known for its local food and for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, while Elyria is known for the beautiful 100-plus acre Cascade Park. This MSA had the lowest median home listing price of the Top 10 Big Cities at $212,475. Cleveland and Elyria, OH, also scored well for having a growing Veteran population, a lower-than-average cost of living, and a comparatively low amount of Veteran unemployment.

10. Boise City, ID

At No. 10 on our Best Big Cities for Veterans list is Boise City, Idaho. Boise is the capital of Idaho and also the largest city in the state, with a population of 236,634. While that doesn’t seem like enough to make a “Big City” list, the Boise MSA is also made up of Nampa and Meridian, and it's the third-largest metro in the Pacific Northwest. Boise City ranked best on our big cities list for having the lowest crime rate of the Top 10, and it was a close second for best average air quality. Boise also ranked well for its high-quality health facilities, pre-K-12 state scores, and overall quality of life. The city is known for the Boise River Greenbelt, which stretches 25 miles and is bordered by lush trees and wildlife. Boise is also home to several unique sites like the Old Idaho Penitentiary Museum and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) Overall Rank Financial Well-Being Community Support Healthcare and Facilities Quality of Life

Data Highlights

25 different factors went into creating our Best Cities for Veterans to Live list. Here's a snapshot of the top five cities for some of the most important factors to Veterans.

Top Cities with Highest Veteran Population per Capita

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida has the highest Veteran population.
Columbus, Georgia-Alabama has the second highest Veteran population.
Lawton, Oklahoma has the third higest Veteran population.
Morehead City, North Carolina has the fourth highest Veteran population.
Fayetteville, North Carolina has the fifth highest Veteran population.

Lowest Home Prices

  1. Danville, IL
  2. Johnstown, PA
  3. Greenville, MS
  4. Altoona, PA (tied)
  5. New Castle, PA (tied)

Most VA Resources per Veteran

  1. Key West, FL
  2. Cheyenne, WY
  3. Laredo, TX
  4. Fargo, ND-MN
  5. Yakima, WA

Lowest Cost of Living

  1. Decatur, IL
  2. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
  3. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
  4. Tupelo, MS
  5. Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH

Safest Cities

  1. Glens Falls, NY
  2. State College, PA
  3. Logan, UT-ID
  4. Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY
  5. Wenatchee, WA

Best States for Veterans

map of best states for Veterans
State Overall Rank
South Dakota 1st
Alaska 2nd
Louisiana 3rd
Texas 4th
New Mexico 5th
Tennessee 6th
Florida 7th
Oklahoma 8th
Arizona 9th
Alabama 10th
South Carolina 11th
Arkansas 12th
Wyoming 13th
Montana 14th
Washington 15th
Michigan 16th
Mississippi 17th
Kentucky 18th
North Carolina 19th
Wisconsin 20th
North Dakota 21st
Hawaii 22nd
Iowa 23rd
Kansas 24th
Utah 25th
Virginia 26th
West Virginia 27th
Nebraska 28th
New York 29th
Connecticut 30th
New Hampshire 31st
Missouri 32nd
Delaware 33rd
Maine 34th
Idaho 35th
Illinois 36th
Rhode Island 37th
Minnesota 38th
Ohio 39th
Nevada 40th
Massachusetts 41st
Maryland 42nd
New Jersey 43rd
Georgia 44th
Pennsylvania 45th
Indiana 46th
Colorado 47th
Oregon 48th
Vermont 49th
California 50th

To help formulate the Best States for Veterans list, we asked 601 Veterans to rate the importance of factors that they consider when determining where to live. The states that ranked highest on our list averaged high scores for factors that the surveyed Veterans considered especially important, like median air quality, average cost of living, number of VA facilities and support for homeless Veterans.

We also considered statewide policies, such as whether the states taxed military retirement income and what (if any) property tax exemptions for Veterans with disabilities were offered.

Due to these factors and policies, most of our top states were located in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States.


To score the best cities for Veterans to live, our team of 10 experts spent collectively 200 hours reviewing 25 variables across 11 external data sources. These variables span four categories of interest:

  1. Financial well-being
  2. Community support
  3. Healthcare and facilities
  4. Infrastructure, accessibility, and quality of life

To better inform our variable and categorical importance, we surveyed 601 Veterans across ages 18 to 60+. Gen Z (18-27) made up 12.5% of the survey, Millennials (28-43) were 50.1%, Gen X (44-59) was 20.3%, and all older generations (60+) made up 17.1% of the survey.

The Veteran survey respondents were asked to rate the importance of our 25 variables as “Very Important,” “Somewhat Important,” and “Not Important.” The scores for each variable were normalized and then multiplied by a weight corresponding to our Veteran survey input.

Check out how Veterans responded to the variables influencing their ideal home location below:

Community Support

Weights include:
  • Homeless Veteran population
  • Veteran population growth
  • Veteran population
  • Disabled Veteran population
  • Higher education grants, scholarships, or programs available for Veterans
  • Number of military bases in-state

Financial Well-Being

Weights include:
  • Cost of living
  • Median home listing price
  • Price of gas
  • Property tax exemptions for service-related disabilities
  • How military retirement income is taxed
  • Employment rate

Infrastructure, Accessibility, Quality of Life

Weights include:
  • Crime rate
  • Median air quality
  • Access to fresh food/grocery stores
  • Clean living/energy consumption
  • Quality of the education system
  • Government support for transportation infrastructure
  • Proximity to major airports

Healthcare and Facilities

Weights include:
  • VA health facilities
  • VA benefits facilities
  • Quality of health facilities
  • Number of physicians

Variables were normalized and then multiplied by the appropriate weight. Each variable score for a city was added to achieve a composite score reflecting the city’s overall performance.

We scored 507 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) that include both Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) as well as Micropolitan Statistical Areas (μSAs) in order to capture different Veterans’ needs for large cities as well as smaller, rural areas. Note that CBSAs represent a larger area than the city limits, sometimes encompassing entire counties that fit in the same urban area.

Veteran or general population figures were used to make people or resource-specific variables per capita. In instances where data was unavailable for a specific MSA, median values were used as placeholders to avoid over/under-weighting.

Our metrics were scored based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics,, the U.S. Census Bureau and Current Population Survey (CPS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. News and World Report.

About Our Editorial Process

Veterans United is recognized as the leading VA lender in the nation, unmatched in our specialization and expertise in VA loans. Our strict adherence to accuracy and the highest editorial standards guarantees our information is based on thoroughly vetted, unbiased research. Committed to excellence, we offer guidance to our nation's Veterans, ensuring their homebuying experience is informed, seamless and secured with integrity.