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Best Cities for Veterans to Live [Study + Statistics & Facts]

Transitioning back into civilian life can be a daunting final mission for Veterans and military families. Veterans United Home Loans created this list of Veteran-friendly cities to help our nation’s military community find a place to call home with the help of a zero down VA home loan.

Let’s take a closer look at the cities that topped the list for best cities for veterans and military families.

Top 10 Cities for Veterans to Live in 2020

San Antonio Skyline

#1 - San Antonio

Veteran Population107,359
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average96.7
Median Home Price$175,400
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)37
Number of VA Health Centers14
Number of VA Benefit Centers 5
San Antonio is a major city in south-central Texas that is rich in history and has tons of culture and attractions to admire. San Antonio topped the list for the best place for veterans to live
Lincoln Nebraska

#2 - Lincoln, NE

Veteran Population14,846
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average95.6
Median Home Price$180,600
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)17.0
Number of VA Health Centers5
Number of VA Benefit Centers 2

Lincoln is the capital city of Nebraska and is home to home to over 250,000 thousand people. The city was actually named after Abraham Lincoln, and offer veterans a nice place to consider settling down.

Arlington Texas

#3 - Arlington, TX

Veteran Population19,153
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average108.9
Median Home Price$204,600
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)30.7
Number of VA Health Centers13
Number of VA Benefit Centers 0

Arlington is a city that offers great shopping, restaurants, and public art.

Raleigh North Carolina

#4 - Raleigh, NC

Veteran Population20,888
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average111
Median Home Price$273,900
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)20.3
Number of VA Health Centers14
Number of VA Benefit Centers 2

Raleigh is the capital of the state of North Carolina and is definitely a place that veterans should consider when thinking about places to live. This city is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S that offers a humid subtropical climate.

Oklahoma City

#5 - Oklahoma City, OK

Veteran Population42,000
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average91.5
Median Home Price$130,000
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)40.4
Number of VA Health Centers4
Number of VA Benefit Centers 1

Oklahoma City is the capital of the state of Oklahoma and is known for its rich cowboy culture. Oklahoma City is filled with attractions and a wide range of experiences to enjoy.

Colorado Springs

#6 - Colorado Springs, CO

Veteran Population53,583
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average112.9
Median Home Price$287,900
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)23.6
Number of VA Health Centers4
Number of VA Benefit Centers 5
Colorado Springs offers more than 60 area attractions, including trains, museums, parks, a zoo and tons of other outdoor activities.
Boise City

#7 - Boise City, ID

Veteran Population15,797
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average106.7
Median Home Price$303,100
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)20.9
Number of VA Health Centers4
Number of VA Benefit Centers 2

Boise is the capital city of Idaho and is the largest city in the state. Boise has a fairly mild climate that attracts tons of tourists each year to the city.

Jacksonville

#8 - Jacksonville, FL

Veteran Population79,192
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average99.5
Median Home Price$180,300
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)33.9
Number of VA Health Centers6
Number of VA Benefit Centers 2

Jacksonville is a large city in Florida that has an attractive downtown, 22 miles of beaches, extensive park systems, world-class fishing, historic neighborhoods, vibrant street art, creative coastal cuisine, delicious craft beer, and a vibrant nightlife.

 Fort Worth

#9 - Fort Worth, TX

Veteran Population42,375
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average107.3
Median Home Price$197,700
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)26.5
Number of VA Health Centers13
Number of VA Benefit Centers 0

Fort Worth is a city in North Central Texas that offers more than 92 attractions in a 10-mile radius of downtown.

Columbus

#10 - Columbus, OH

Veteran Population41,428
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average90.4
Median Home Price$157,700
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)29
Number of VA Health Centers8
Number of VA Benefit Centers 0

Columbus is Ohio’s state capital, and has a world-class Columbus Zoo and Aquarium that is great to visit any time of the year. This city has plenty of sports events to enjoy all year long, from Columbus Crew SC to the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets to the MLB AAA Columbus Clippers.

Table 1: Breakdown of Veteran Livability Factors (Percentages)

Factors Considered Very Important Fairly Important Important Somewhat Important Not At All Important
Affordable housing 68.47% 10.61% 13.31% 3.80% 3.80%
Job opportunities 41.86% 10.30% 13.73% 8.86% 25.25%
A low unemployment rate 43.05% 16.46% 17.48% 8.28% 14.72%
The size of the veteran / military population 38.57% 16.53% 20.20% 13.57% 11.12%
Access to VA health facilities 67.61% 11.44% 10.53% 4.35% 6.07%
Quality of VA health facilities 75.15% 8.76% 8.15% 2.75% 5.19%
Access to colleges or institutions approved for VA education benefits 29.72% 16.53% 16.84% 11.05% 25.86%

The survey suggest that the top factors that veterans consider when relocating is having access to quality VA health facilities in the area, and being able to afford purchasing a home in the area.

Figure 1: Breakdown of Military Survey Participants

 Breakdown of Military Survey Participants

Survey Participants. Of the 1,500 military participants that were surveyed, a large majority of them were veterans. (Figure 1)

Table 2: Top 50 Places for Veterans to Live in 2020

MSA Overall Rank (1- 100) Veteran Unemployment Rate Rank Cost of Living Rank
Rate of Growth of VA Loans (FY 18-19) Rank Housing Affordability Rank
San Antonio, TX 1 17 28 35 48
Lincoln, NE 2 15 26 81 39
Arlington, TX 3 11 48 23 31
Raleigh, NC 4 33 54 75 25
Oklahoma City, OK 5 6 20 62 61
Colorado Springs, CO 6 23 56 53 44
Boise City, ID 7 26 39 96 61
Jacksonville, FL 8 30 33 15 67
Fort Worth, TX 9 36 41 47 39
Columbus, OH 10 23 18 48 22
Louisville, KY 11 29 27 43 19
Corpus Christi, TX 12 8 17 71 72
Fort Wayne, IN 13 55 5 39 31
El Paso, TX 14 26 10 19 91
Kansas City, MO 15 34 21 67 25
Chesapeake, VA 16 2 62 49 83
Irving, TX 17 1 44 38 22
Lexington-Fayette,KY 18 41 25 61 61
Lubbock,TX 19 17 7 26 83
Charlotte, NC 20 56 38 73 67
Tampa, FL 21 20 47 58 87
Wichita, KS 22 59 8 59 48
Omaha, NE 23 34 23 40 25
Tulsa, OK 24 30 14 75 54
Durham,NC 25 41 36 29 44
Greensboro, NC 26 20 12 8 78
Virginia Beach, VA 27 10 61 42 78
Plano, TX 28 7 66 96 83
Anchorage, AK 29 9 79 89 31
Baton Rouge, LA 30 82 34 70 39
Austin, TX 31 26 76 27 44
Nashville, TN 32 13 52 8 48
Aurora, CO 33 53 77 72 19
Gilbert ,AZ 34 5 73 84 95
St. Petersburg,FL 35 44 40 18 87
Toledo, OH 36 83 2 31 44
Garland, TX 37 49 43 96 39
Dallas, TX 38 46 45 51 25
Glendale, AZ 39 30 57 8 54
Mesa, AZ 40 20 59 75 54
Albuquerque, NM 41 23 31 62 67
Madison,WI 42 19 51 7 25
Chandler,AZ 43 11 68 94 87
Irvine,CA 44 14 97 4 100
Reno, NV 45 71 71 95 61
Winston-Salem, NC 46 83 9 33 74
Laredo,TX 47 3 19 16 99
Norfolk, VA 48 39 35 27 31
Pittsburgh, PA 49 63 22 21 15
Orlando, FL 50 95 55 36 74

Research Methodology

In order to determine the best cities for Veterans to live, Veterans United’s analysts first compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities across 4 key dimensions: Economic Wellness, Employment, Availability of VA Benefits and Quality of Life for Veterans.

Next, we evaluated the strength of each city across those dimensions using 20 relevant variables, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Metrics were gathered from a social media survey of Veterans and other similar studies.

Then, each city was scored and ranked in each of the 20 variables by multiplying the city’s rank by that variable’s weight. The final rankings were determined by the city’s total score, with the lowest score representing the best city for Veterans to live.

(For our data sample, we only considered the city proper and excluded the metro area. Data for variables marked with an asterisk (*) were only available at the county level.)

Variables

Economic Wellness

Percentage of Monthly Income Spent on Monthly Mortgage Payment (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric was measured using the average county property tax rate, the national average interest rate of 4.75%, a 2.15% funding fee with no down payment.)

Percentage of Monthly Income Spent on Rent (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric was measured using the average county property tax rate, the national average interest rate of 4.75%, a 2.15% funding fee with no down payment.)

Median Veteran Income Adjusted for Local Cost of Living

(Note: This metric calculated the percentage of an individual’s income spent on the estimated cost of living expenses.)

Homeless Veterans per 1,000 Veterans (Half Weight)

Note: This metric uses Continuum of Care data from the Department of Housing and Development’s PIT and HIC Counts.

Cost of Living Compared to the National Average (Full Weight)

Housing Affordability (Full Weight)

(Note: This metric includes the H +T index score to account for a household’s two largest costs: housing and transportation.)

Veteran Income Growth Since 2012 (Full Weight)

(Note: This metric measures the rate of growth for median veteran income since 2012 compared to 2017.

Employment

Veteran Unemployment Rate (Double Weight)

5 Year Rate of Job Growth (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric measures the rate of job growth since 2012.)

Number of Veteran-Owned Businesses per 1,000 Veterans (Half Weight)

Civilian Unemployment Rate (Half Weight)

Availability of VA Benefits

Quality of VA Health Facilities * (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric uses the Department of Veterans Affairs’ End of Year Hospital Star Ratings from its “Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning” (SAIL) tool. Data was recorded for the nearest VA Medical Center facility.)

Number of Higher Education Facilities Approved for VA Benefits (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric measures the number of secondary education facilities within a city that are approved by the VA for VA Benefit Funding.)

Number of VA Health Facilities per 1,000 Veterans (Full Weight)

(Note: Data taken for number of facilities within 50 miles radius.)

Number of Veterans Benefits Administration Facilities per 1,000 Veterans (Full Weight)

(Note: Data taken for number of facilities within 50 miles radius.)

5 Year Compounded Annual Growth Rate of VA Loans (Half Weight)

(Note: This metric measures the weighted rate of growth of VA loans issued in a city from 2012 – 2017.)

Quality of Life for Veterans

Percentage of Veterans Living Below the Poverty Line (Double Weight)

Veteran Population as a Percentage of the Total Population (Full Weight)

Projected Veteran Population Growth from 2016 – 2045 * (Full Weight)

Violent Crime Rate (Half Weight)

(Note: The national average score is 31.1. Scores below the national average represent safer cities.)

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