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 a career or raise a family.
However, after separation from active military service, Veterans enjoy more freedom to choose where they want to finally settle down. After years of serving the nation, this comes as a great relief to many military retirees. To help you with the decision of “where to live?” we’ve compiled a list of eight of the best states for military Veterans or retirees to live.
States With No Military Retirement Tax
One of the most important things to consider when choosing what state to live is in how much your Veterans’ retirement payments will be taxed. Your budget could go much farther in the following states, which do not tax military retirement pay at all:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- 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 at all:
- New Hampshire (dividend and interest taxes only)
- South Dakota
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 and keep you updated on any tax changes that are bound to happen from year to year.
Whether your ultimate military 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: Learn all about Military Taxes: In-Depth Guide & Helpful Links to File.
Additional Considerations for Retired Military
Some things to consider, 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 in that area?
- Does the state have a robust economic environment?
Researching these considerations while also honoring your personal preferences will help you find the right state and city for you.
8 of the Best States for Military Retirees
Opinions on places to retire can be as unique as each Veteran’s preferences and needs. Allow the information about the eight best states for retired military members to guide your decision!
The 49th state is No. 1 when it comes to U.S. retired military settling down. According to the Census Bureau, the state has the nation’s highest concentration of former military personnel. A combination of generous state benefits, such as employment incentives and housing programs, as well as a rugged and scenic outdoors, makes it an easy decision for many.
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 and Soldotna.
Something to Consider: The cost of living in Alaska is higher due to the distance 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 is the place! This information may also help explain why the state ranks third due to the number of Veterans in the population, which is about 1.5 million vets.
With 21 military installations representing every branch in the state, there are 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 also nine additional clinics scattered across the state.
Preferences for state jobs, Veterans’ tuition breaks, plus competitive housing incentives make the area even more attractive. For example, eligible resident Veterans with a VA-certified service-connected disability of 10% or greater are entitled to a $5,000 deduction on the assessment of their home for tax exemption purposes. Homes owned and used as a homestead by an honorably discharged Veteran with a service-connected, permanent, and total disability are 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% of the adult population in the state are Veterans.
It’s important to note that while the cost of living is generally lower than the national average, housing costs are a bit higher. In addition, 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, 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 reenactments, or nearby Washington, D.C., you’ll have good company as about 9% of the adult population in Maryland is Veterans.
This smaller state has a larger number of military installations. Among them include the 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, 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 retired military. It’s a place where you can find great fishing spots and then catch college game-day fever before enjoying a cotton candy sunset over the vast plains. About 10% of the adult population in Oklahoma are Veterans.
Five installations in the state, including 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% of the adult population, call the state home. In particular, the cultural and historic offerings in Charleston, plus its 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% of South Dakota’s adult population are 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 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.
You know what they say! “Virginia is for lovers,” and you can interpret that however you wish. It can mean 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% 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 homes, 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 to choose yourself as well as your physical and mental health. 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.