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Best Cities for Veterans to Live [Study]

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.

In order to determine the best cities for Veterans, Veterans United compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities based on 21 key indicators of academic, social and economic opportunities for veterans.

Due to the pandemic this year we integrated a COVID-19 data set to our Quality of Life dimension. Our data sets range from the cost of living to the quality of higher education to the number of reported COVID-19 cases for a particular area. Below are our findings and a full description of our methodology

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

Top 10 Cities for Veterans to Live in 2020

Here are the cites that made it to the top of the list for 2020.

#10 - Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach, VA
Veteran Population 57,082
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 19
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 105.6
Median Home Price $268,100
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) 10.5
Number of VA Health Centers 6
Number of VA Benefit Centers 16

#9 - Kansas City, MO

Kansas City, MO​
Veteran Population 25,098
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 15
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 86.2
Median Home Price $146,300
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) $146,300
Number of VA Health Centers 13
Number of VA Benefit Centers 1

#8 - Boise City, ID

Boise City, ID
Veteran Population 15,259
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 65
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 103.6
Median Home Price $303,100
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) 16.3
Number of VA Health Centers 3
Number of VA Benefit Centers 1

#7 - El Paso, TX

El Paso, TX
Veteran Population43, 536
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People42
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average81.4
Median Home Price$130,700
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)22.1
Number of VA Health Centers7
Number of VA Benefit Centers4

#6 - Durham, NC

Durham, NC
Veteran Population12, 399
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People34
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average95.2
Median Home Price$231,400
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)40.6
Number of VA Health Centers10
Number of VA Benefit Centers0

#5 - Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE​
Veteran Population13, 863
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People19
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average89.8
Median Home Price$180, 600
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)17
Number of VA Health Centers4
Number of VA Benefit Centers7

#4 - Raleigh, NC

Raleigh, NC
Veteran Population $44,325
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 43
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 102.3
Median Home Price $273,900
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) 20.3
Number of VA Health Centers 17
Number of VA Benefit Centers 5

#3 - Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, IN
Veteran Population 14,017
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 26
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 78.9
Median Home Price $135,100
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) 23.5
Number of VA Health Centers 4
Number of VA Benefit Centers 4

#2 - Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs, CO
Veteran Population51, 895
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People18
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average104.5
Median Home Price$287,900
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7)23.6
Number of VA Health Centers1
Number of VA Benefit Centers2

#1 - Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake, VA​
Veteran Population 27,191
# of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People 22
Cost of Living Compared to the National Average 106.4
Median Home Price $270,300
Violent Crime Rate (National Average is 22.7) 18.1
Number of VA Health Centers 16
Number of VA Benefit Centers 6

Table 2: Top 50 Places for Veterans to Live in 2021

MSAOverall RankVeteran Unemployment Rate RankCost of Living RankRate of Growth of VA Loans (FY 19-20) RankHousing Affordability Rank
Chesapeake, VA134614285
Colorado Springs, CO226593144
Fort Wayne, IN34157534
Raleigh, NC423515327
Lincoln, NE52284640
Durham, NC69367444
El Paso, TX767109092
Boise City, ID820545662
Kansas City, MO920217526
Virginia Beach, VA1046603182
Plano, TX112365385
Wichita, KS1251109250
Lubbock, TX134179584
Arlington, TX1411455336
San Antonio, TX1559274953
Jacksonville, FL 1663358668
Fort Worth, TX1775437541
Charlotte, NC1837405370
Norfolk, VA1983337338
Aurora, CO2059733319
Albuquerque, NM2198318471
Greensboro, NC2214154481
Laredo, TX237167999
Austin, TX2423765147
Louisville, KY2530256221
Anchorage, AK2646792331
Corpus Christi, TX2739128173
Tulsa, OK2834138759
Omaha, NE2930297128
Spokane, WA3026345160
Columbus, OH3115208423
Nashville, TN3210497552
Madison, WI3311474330
Winston-Salem, NC343798876
Lexington-Fayette, KY3589266863
Toledo, OH367829946
Tampa, FL3719447290
Orlando, FL3871576675
Birmingham, AL 397938232
Oklahoma City, OK406199665
Chula Vista, CA 4183861887
Baton Rouge, LA4297303939
Dallas, TX4344505729
Denver, CO4417804820
Phoenix, AZ4568562756
Portland, OR4679814051
Irving, TX473463024
Seattle, WA4868921943
St. Petersburg, FL4941398089
Garland, TX5015412942

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 21 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 21 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 2013 compared to 2018.

Employment

Veteran Unemployment Rate (Double Weight)

5 Year Rate of Job Growth (Double Weight)

(Note: This metric measures the rate of job growth since 2013.)

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 2013 – 2018.)

Quality of Life for Veterans

# Of COVID-19 Cases Per 1,000 People from (3/2020 - 9/2020) (Double Weight)

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 2018 – 2048 * (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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