Florida

No wonder military veterans flock to Florida

The analysis compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using 22 key indicators of retirement-friendliness toward veterans.
The analysis compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using 22 key indicators of retirement-friendliness toward veterans. Miami Herald File

Florida reigns as a paradise for snowbirds. Beachside motels lure Canadians and spring-breakers.

And according to personal-finance site WalletHub, Florida also is the best state for military retirees.

WalletHub’s analysis compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using 22 key indicators of retirement-friendliness toward veterans. From job opportunities to housing affordability to quality of VA hospitals, the data use common challenges faced by veterans to determine the best states.

WalletHub used three main categories: economic environment, quality of life and healthcare.

Florida is home to the third-largest veteran population in the nation and is the top state for a veteran getting hired and for state tax on military pensions. Military retired pay and survivor benefit plans are tax exempt in Florida.

This year, WalletHub included two more metrics: the share of population 40 and older and the presence of veteran-treatment courts for mental health and drug addiction. According to the findings, more than half of the state’s veteran population is over the age of 40.

Florida’s VA hospitals, and the number of them, also ranked high.

“For the quality of VA hospitals metric, Florida ranked 19th because patients were more willing to recommend the state’s VA hospitals,” analyst Jill Gonzalez said. A score of 25 is considered average, and lower scores like Florida’s are better, she said.

“Florida ranked high [fifth best] for the number of VA health facilities per number of veterans,” Gonzalez said.

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Despite varying waiting times, VA hospitals got a high ranking in Florida. Roberto Koltun El Nuevo Herald File

When it comes to jobs, veterans also do well in Florida.

Analysts determined the number of job opportunities for veterans by looking at eligible jobs and subtracting the veteran unemployment rate, Gonzalez said. In hiring for federal government jobs, veterans in Florida may receive preference depending on their disability status and when they were active.

Bob Graham serves as the regional manager of the nonprofit Veteran’s Outreach and helps tackle unemployment. The Army veteran said the ranking makes sense, although in his experience waiting times for VA hospitals vary. And for what Veterans Affairs can’t do, Graham said organizations like his step in and help.

“The VA can’t help veterans meet their financial obligations, like light bills and rent and car payments,” said Graham, whose office is in Sarasota. “Many of them are or will become homeless unless they get help.”

There are over 56,000 veterans in Miami-Dade County, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. That’s a lot of Memorial Day discounts.

Florida rankings

21st: Veterans per capita

5th: Number of VA health facilities per number of veterans

29th: Veteran job opportunities

6th: Number of VA benefits-administration facilities per number of veterans

27th: Cost-of-living index

24th: Arts, leisure and recreation establishments per capita

5th: Percentage of population age 40 and older

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