Special Report

Best & Worst States for Military Retirees

The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest employer in the world, with some 3.2 million people on its books — more than 1.4 million of them on active military duty. (These are the states where the most Americans serve in the military.)

About 200,000 of those service members retire every year, and there are currently an estimated 2.19 million military retirees in the U.S. — a number projected to grow to 2.28 million over the next 10 years. While veterans are entitled to a range of benefits when they leave the service, retirement doesn’t always go smoothly.

To begin with, about 30% of vets nationwide — and 41% of those who have served since Sept. 11, 2001 — have physical disabilities connected with their tours of duty and/or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The difficulty of adjusting to civilian life, an uncertain pandemic-era job market, and the way each state taxes military benefits are other factors affecting them. (Veteran or not, here’s what it costs to retire in every state.)

As if that all weren’t bad enough, state veterans’ homes were among the facilities most drastically affected by COVID-19, and the Veterans Administration recently reported that more than 16,000 former service members have died from the disease.

For a variety of reasons, some states across the country are better places for veterans of the armed services to retire to. To determine the best and worst states for military retirees, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed WalletHub’s list of Best & Worst States for Military Retirees. The site scored states on 30 key metrics, under the overall categories of economic environment, quality of life, and health care, basing their research on a variety of sources including government and non-governmental military websites.

Click here to see the best and worst states for military retirees

Among the specific considerations of the study were each state’s tax-friendliness, share of veteran-owned businesses, VA expenditures, housing affordability, share of veterans not receiving SNAP, share of homeless veterans, weather, physicians per capita, mental health counselors per capita, and COVID-19 positive tests per capita in the week previous to the study.

Virginia was ranked as the best place for military retirees overall, with a score of 61/100. Surprisingly, Oregon was at the bottom of the list, at 37.8/100. Its neighbor, Washington, got the lowest score for health care, while the highest honors in that category went to Connecticut.