Life in the United States armed forces is one of both proud service and personal sacrifice. Being stationed according to the nation’s needs and your skill set means you don’t always get your first choice of where to live, build your career or raise a family. But after separation from active military service, veterans enjoy more freedom to choose where they want to settle down. With that decision in mind, we’ve compiled a list of eight of the best states for military veterans or retirees to put down roots.
States That Don’t Tax Military Retirement
One of the most important things to consider when choosing what state to live is how much your veterans’ retirement payments will be taxed. Your budget could go much farther in the following states, which don’t tax military retirement pay at all:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
States That Don’t Have Military State Income Taxes
In addition, the following states don’t require military members to pay state income tax on military retirement pay because there is simply no state income tax collected:
- New Hampshire (dividend and interest taxes only)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (dividend and interest taxes only)
Tax codes vary from state to state, so check with a financial professional for the most up-to-date information about tax laws, income brackets, etc. They can help you narrow your options as you consider a new home.
Whether your ultimate retirement plans include hitting the open road for adventures, hiking scenic trails with other veterans or relaxing on a sandy beach with family and friends, being able to keep more of your retirement income in the above states can help turn those dreams into reality.
More like this: Military Taxes: In-Depth Guide & Helpful Links to File
5 Additional Things to Consider When Retiring
Some considerations — such as climate, proximity to relatives, etc. — are subjective choices unique to each veteran. However, there are plenty of tangible distinctions when deciding on the right state for you. These might include:
- Is there a well-established community of veterans already in the state?
- Is healthcare for veterans — including disabled veterans — easily accessible?
- Are on-installation services available nearby?
- What is the general cost of living?
- Does the state have a robust economic environment?
Researching these — while considering your personal preferences — will help you find the right state for you, as well as the best cities within that state.
8 of the Best States for Military Retirees
Opinions on places to retire can be as unique as each veteran’s needs. Let these selections — with info about the considerations we think are most important — help you make your own short list of the best states for military vets.
The 49th state is No. 1 when it comes to U.S. retired military. According to the Census Bureau, the state has the nation’s highest concentration of former military personnel. A combination of generous state benefits (employment incentives, housing programs) and rugged, scenic outdoors sure don’t hurt, either. Alaska is home to nine military installations, including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage and Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. Healthcare options include the Anchorage VA Medical Center and clinics in Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Soldotna and Wasilla.
Something to consider: The cost of living in Alaska is higher, due to the distance that many consumer products must travel to reach the state.
You can learn more about the benefits available in the Last Frontier on the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website.
If it’s warm sun and ample services you want, Florida has them both in spades. That may also help explain why the state ranks third in sheer number of veterans in the population — about 1.5 million vets. With 21 military installations representing every branch, there’s plenty of options for behind-the-gate services, including MacDill Air Force Base, Naval Station Mayport, Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
Medical treatment is always within reach, with major healthcare centers in Tampa, Lake City, Gainesville, Miami, Orlando and West Palm Beach. There are nine additional clinics scattered across the state.
Preferences for state jobs, veterans’ tuition breaks, plus competitive housing incentives make the climate even nicer. For example, eligible resident veterans with a VA certified service-connected disability of 10 percent or greater are entitled to a $5,000 deduction on the assessment of their home for tax exemption purposes. Real estate owned and used as a homestead by an honorably discharged veteran with a service-connected, permanent and total disability is exempt from taxation.
Find out more about what The Sunshine State has to offer on the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs website.
Whether your idea of retirement includes kayaking through majestic state parks or kicking back with a fine vintage at a winery, epic adventures await you in Idaho. About 10 percent of the adult population in the state are veterans, and while the cost of living is generally lower than the national average, housing costs are a bit higher. On-base services are limited to just one location: Mountain Home Air Force Base in the southwest corner of the state.
However, healthcare is available at the Boise VA Medical Center and clinics in Mountain Home, Salmon, Sandpoint, Caldwell, Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene and Twin Falls. The state offers veterans a multitude of benefits, including reduced fees for hunting and fishing licenses, employment preference for state jobs, reductions in property taxes for vets with service-connected disabilities and more.
The Idaho Division of Veterans Services’ website has extra details about just how valuable veterans are in The Gem State.
Veterans can immerse themselves in the heart of history in this scenic Mid-Atlantic state. While you explore colonial festivals, Civil War battlefield re-enactments or nearby Washington, D.C., you’ll have good company; about 9 percent of the adult population in Maryland is veterans.
This smaller state has a larger number of military installations —11 — among them Joint Base Andrews, Aberdeen Proving Ground Army Base, Fort Meade, Coast Guard Yard and Naval Support Activity Annapolis. It is also home to the prestigious United States Naval Academy.
Medical services are provided through the VA Maryland Health Care System with two medical centers and a clinic in Baltimore and one medical center in Perry Point. Additional community-based outpatient clinics are available in Cambridge, Cumberland, Rosedale, Frederick, Fort Meade, Glen Burnie, Hagerstown, Gaithersburg, Pocomoke, Charlotte Hall and Camp Springs.
State perks include property tax exemptions for veterans with disabilities, waivers for entrance to state parks, preference for state jobs and more.
See what new benefits await you in The Old Line State at the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Oklahoma is a whole lot more than OK when it comes to attracting retiring veterans. It’s a place where you can find great fishing spots then catch college game-day fever before enjoying a cotton-candy sunset over the vast plains. About 10 percent of the adult population in Oklahoma is veterans.
Five installations in the state — Altus Air Force Base, Fort Sill, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Tinker Air Force Base and Vance AFB — provide eligible veterans access to commissaries, exchanges and other on-site offerings.
Veterans are served by the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System and the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System in Muskogee. Additional healthcare can be found at VA clinics in Tulsa, Ada, Altus, Ardmore, Blackwell, Enid, Muskogee, Idabel, Stillwater and Vinita. A low cost of living makes the state even more desirable, in addition to benefits such as preference for state jobs and property tax exemption for permanently disabled veterans.
See more of what the Sooner State has to offer at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs website.
6. South Carolina
From pristine sandy beaches along the coast to colorful fall woodlands upstate, South Carolina is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. It’s a geographic treasure that has attracted a large community of military retirees; more than 400,000 veterans, or about 10 percent of the adult population, call the state home. In particular, the cultural and historic offerings in Charleston — plus low housing costs — have made the state’s largest city an attractive retirement destination.
For exchanges and commissaries for eligible veterans and other behind-the-gate offerings, there are eight military installations in South Carolina, among them Shaw Air Force Base, Fort Jackson and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.
Wellness services are provided through the Columbia VA Health Care System and a medical center in Charleston. VA clinics are available in North Charleston, Aiken, Anderson, Beaufort, Florence, Goose Creek, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Orangeburg, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and Sumter.
State-specific benefits include tax-free retirement pay up to $14,600 and no-cost burial sites in a veterans’ cemetery for honorably discharged South Carolina resident military retirees and their spouses.
The South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs website has more info on what future you can expect in The Palmetto State.
7. South Dakota
From the striking geologic strata of the Badlands to the dramatic Black Hills National Forest, the wide, open spaces of South Dakota have a special place in veterans’ hearts.
Policies such as a state bonus program based on service qualifications are part of the allure as well, and about 10 percent of South Dakota’s adult population is veterans.
The state is home to just one military installation, Ellsworth Air Force Base, for access to a commissary and exchange.
However, health care is abundant, provided by the Royal C. Johnson Veterans Memorial Hospital in Sioux Falls and the VA Black Hills Health Care System campuses at Fort Meade and in Hot Springs. Clinics are available in Mission, Pierre, Pine Ridge, Rapid City and Winner.
Preference for state employment and free education at state colleges are added state perks.
Find more details about benefits in The Mount Rushmore State from the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Virginia is for lovers — and lovers of mountains, beaches, rural towns, culture, history and more. Virginia also loves its retired military, attracting more than 725,028 veterans to the state, about 11 percent of the adult population.
A whopping 27 military installations, representing every branch, dot the map, including Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Naval Air Station Oceana and Naval Station Norfolk.
Healthcare is provided by major VA medical centers in Hampton, Richmond and Salem. Additional clinics serve patients in Charlottesville, Chesapeake, Danville, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Staunton, Tazewell, Virginia Beach and Wytheville.
Within the state, disabled veterans are exempted from real estate tax on their home, veterans receive preference for state jobs, and military survivors and dependents can access education incentives.
Discover what new opportunities await you in Old Dominion at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services website.
Retirement from the military doesn’t mean an end to your active life. It’s just the beginning of a mission that you choose yourself. Finding the right place to call home for you and/or your family can give you the security to thrive as a retiree, wherever that may be.
Being prepared — and adaptable — are familiar traits that will go a long way to making whatever state you choose the best for your future. As you map out your retirement route, an excellent resource for veterans benefits in each state can be found here.