The Best Places for Veterans to Live? Try Tampa, but Avoid Detroit, Survey Finds

Storm clouds shroud the downtown skyline Tampa, Florida
Storm clouds shroud the downtown skyline Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

A new survey on the best and worst places for veterans to live put a Florida city on top for the second year in a row and Detroit at the bottom -- again.

Tampa led the list based on factors ranging from housing affordability, job opportunities and availability of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities to quality of life and a welcoming atmosphere for veterans. Motor City came in last among 100 cities in the annual survey conducted prior to Veterans Day by the WalletHub personal finance website.

The top 10 best cities for veterans in the survey, released Nov. 1, include Tampa; Austin, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Raleigh, North Carolina; Gilbert, Arizona; Lincoln, Nebraska; Madison, Wisconsin; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Orlando, Florida; and Boise, Idaho.

The bottom 10 include Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; North Las Vegas, Nevada; Cleveland, Ohio; San Bernardino, California; Toledo, Ohio; Jersey City, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; Memphis, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan.

The complete ratings for the 100 cities can be seen here.

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WalletHub used new methodology for the survey, resulting in a shuffle of the list compared to last year.

In 2020, WalletHub's top 10 best cities for veterans were Orlando, Florida; Irvine, California; Tampa; Raleigh; Austin; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Virginia Beach; Scottsdale; Gilbert; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The bottom 10 included New York City; Fresno, California; Anaheim, California; Jersey City; Long Beach, California; Baltimore; Memphis; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Newark; and Detroit.

WalletHub's listings also can be at odds with other surveys rating the best and worst places for veterans, depending on the number of factors taken into account and the weight given them.

A 10 "Best Cities After Service" list released last year by Navy Federal Credit Union, in partnership with the Operation Homefront nonprofit advocacy group, put Charleston, South Carolina, at No. 1.

It was followed by Fort Myers, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Daphne, Alabama; Norwich, Connecticut; San Diego, California: Norfolk, Virginia; Duluth, Minnesota; Gulfport, Mississippi; and Fort Worth, Texas.

The credit union did not do a similar survey this year, but the LendingTree online loan marketplace put out a survey ranking the best and worst places for veterans by state that listed South and North Dakota as the best, followed by Idaho, Vermont, Virginia, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Delaware and Maine.

The LendingTree's 10 worst places for veterans were led by California followed by Washington, D.C.; Arizona; Louisiana; Rhode Island; New York; Illinois; Hawaii; New Jersey; and Nevada.

The high rankings for the Dakotas were attributed to low housing costs and veteran unemployment rates, while California's bottom ranking was mainly the result of having the highest ratio of average housing costs to veteran income (40%), the LendingTree survey showed.

In its survey, WalletHub based its 2021 rankings for "Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live" on 20 metrics that included the quality of local VA hospitals and the percentage of veterans living below the poverty line.

The expanded use of metrics this year resulted in shifts in the rankings. New York City was among the 10 worst cities for veterans in the survey last year, ranked 90th, but improved this year to No. 77.

In written responses to questions, WalletHub staff analyst Jill Gonzalez said comparisons between the 2020 and 2021 surveys of best cities for veterans to live should not be drawn because of the changes in methodology. She added, "New York City's strong points this year included having the biggest number of arts and entertainment establishments that offer military discounts and the most VA health facilities per veteran population."

Why was Detroit last again? Gonzalez said it had "the fourth highest veteran unemployment rate at 9.4% and the third lowest number of veteran-owned businesses per capita."

Detroit "also has the largest share of veterans living in poverty, almost 18%, and a low median veteran income, less than $27,000," she said.

And how did the survey measure the "veteran friendliness" of a city? Gonzalez said that was done "through metrics such as the share of military skill-related jobs, the number of veteran-owned businesses, veteran income, the size of the veteran population and the facilities they benefit from."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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