It can be tricky to answer the question, “Which are the best states for military benefits?” because the answer depends greatly on your priorities and preferences. Do you need access to a range of medical treatment options? Are you planning on buying a home and want to know where the best housing markets are? Is education your priority?
That said, there are several states that offer more for veterans by the virtue of being home to a multitude of bases or installations. The variety of options open to a veteran in these states will likely be more appealing than areas with fewer options.
A 2016 survey published by Governing(dot)com lists California as having the highest number of currently serving military personnel, both active duty and guard/reserve. California is also home to a large number of military installations, which means those who are eligible for on-base care, commissary or AAFES access have a great many options.
California offers some unique education incentives for veterans including tuition waivers for state-run schools. California has a high number of VA healthcare facilities, second only to New York and Wyoming according to a survey published by WalletHub.
The Lone Star State also has a high number of military installations and a high number of military residents. But the benefits of living in Texas don’t just include proximity to VA health care centers, base exchanges, and on-base job opportunities. The State of Texas has a program called the Veterans Land Board (VLB), which the VLB official site describes as, “…the only one of its kind in the nation, giving Texas Veterans the opportunity to borrow up to $150,000 to purchase land at competitive interest rates while typically requiring a minimum 5% down payment for tracts one acre or more.”
This state also has multiple veteran retirement facilities, and thanks to legislation known as the Hazelwood Act, the state offers 150 hours of free higher education benefits in the form of tuition exemption at public colleges and universities in the state for those who list Texas as their home of record and/or who entered military service in the state.
The State of Colorado offers some outstanding incentives for veterans including a 10-point hiring preference for state jobs offered to veterans receiving VA compensation for service-connected disabilities and career assistance to all veterans. There is a generous property tax benefit for qualifying disabled veterans, and a military retirement pay income tax break allowing retirees to exclude as much as $24 thousand in any year at tax time.
While the state offers certain education benefits to qualifying disabled veterans and has flexible requirements for military members who want to qualify for in-state tuition rates, Colorado doesn’t offer the same tuition exemption programs as the State of California. However, for those who plan to use the GI Bill in Colorado, the large number of public universities offers veterans plenty of options for a GI Bill-funded education.
Depending on your priorities, other states have much to offer. New York is ranked among the highest for the number of VA health care facilities available, Iowa ranks highly for the number of job opportunities for vets, and Florida is another state with a high number of military bases, a very large veteran community, and a diverse range of VA health services.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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