As noted in a recent report, where a veteran chooses to live and work after getting out is an important choice that affects their buying power. Using the data from the Best for Vets Places to Live 2019, the chart below highlights five of the best medium-size towns based on the following criteria:

  • Median Housing: Less than $250,000
  • Median Veteran Income: More than $36,000
  • Population: Between 100,000 to 250,000
  • School rating: More than 3.5 (Scale is 1 to 10 with 10 being the best)

Note 1: Each location in the chart has at least one military installation within 25 miles providing access to a PX/BX and Commissary;

Note 2: Each location also has at least 5 VA health facilities within 50 miles for health care access.

Note 3: Three of the four factors apply to all veterans, however the school rating applies only to veterans having school age children.

Note 4: In all but one location the Civilian Unemployment rate is at least twice that of Veterans.

Note 5: Median veteran income exceeds nonveteran income by at least $9,500 per year, meaning more buying power for veterans on the civilian market.

Housing to Income Ratio

In looking at two of the critical factors, median housing compared to median veteran income, the following data emerges for the five medium-size towns selected:

  • 2.95 – Clarksville, TN
  • 4.46 – Columbia, SC
  • 4.95 – Newport News, VA
  • 5.17 – Surprise, AZ
  • 5.23 – Hampton, VA

Note: The lower the factor, the more affordable it is to buy a house.

Many veterans want to work in the civilian job market after getting out, so employability is important to them. As shown in the chart below, two of the five medium-size towns have veteran unemployment rates way under the National average of 3.7% – Columbia, SC and Hampton, VA at 1.3% and 2.7%, respectively, indicating these two towns are veteran-friendly when it comes to employment. The civilian unemployment rates for these two towns are almost double the National average at 7% and 6.9%, respectively. The chart below compares a range of industries common to the two towns.

Quick facts on these two medium-size towns:

Columbia, SC

The top two industries here are healthcare and education. Columbia is in central South Carolina where Interstates I-20 and I-26 intersect. This medium-size town has a veteran population of 8.3%. Commuters spend on average just 15 minutes a day getting to and from work.

Hampton, VA

Advanced manufacturing, aerospace and homeland security round out the big three in this town.

Located on the southeast end of the Virginia Peninsula, it is bordered by Chesapeake Bay on the north and east and Hampton Roads Harbor on the south. With an air base, navy shipyard and Coast Guard station nearby, this medium-size town, as expected, has a high veteran population at 18.6%. Commuters spend on average 22 minutes getting to and from work.

Transitioning out of the military and choosing a location to live can be stressful and one that should be given a lot of thought to, along with comparing factors affecting the decision. Because knowledge is power, the information in this article should help make that decision a little easier and lead to an ideal location.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.