Service members are accustomed to being told where to live. Whether it be a military base in Alaska, a forward operating base in Afghanistan, or a ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, servicemen and women receive orders and follow them.
If you’ve decided to make the military a career, at some point the inevitable question of when to retire will come about.
While this is relatively easy, deciding on where you want to live after your time in the military is up can be challenging.
We’ve done some research on the best states for military retirees, and have compiled this list based on a variety of criteria, including:
- States that don’t tax military retirement and pensions
- States with large military communities
- Job opportunities
- Economic environment
- And other military friendly conditions
Keep reading to know the best states for military retirees.
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#15 – Texas
Being the second largest city in the US by both population and area, Texas is home to a high number of military residents as well as military installations. However, the benefits of living in Texas as a veteran are not only limited to Veteran Administration health centers, on-base job opportunities, and base exchanges.
In addition, Texas has a Veteran Land Board program that offers an opportunity for Texas Veterans to borrow up to $150,000 to buy land at reasonable interest rates with little to no money down.
This state has multiple veteran retirement facilities and the Hazelwood Act offers 150 hours of free higher education exemption at all the public universities and colleges in the state for people who list Texas as their home.
Here are 6 good reasons to live in Texas as a veteran:
- Low taxes. Low taxes means better incentives for businesses. Therefore, if you want to start a small business, low taxes will help you thrive easily
- 121 of the 1,000 biggest public and private companies in the US reside in Texas. This means that it is easier to secure a job in Texas than in most states
- It has a booming economy with great job prospects
- Tax-free retirement for military retirees
- Texas does not tax social security benefits or retirement income
- Has a variety of Veteran Administration Medical Facilities
Thanks to these benefits and many more, Texas has become home to many veterans who have honorably served the United States for many years.
#14 – Maryland
Maryland is another one of the few states that can be termed as ‘Military Veterans-friendly”.
Ranked as one of best governed states in US, Maryland is among the best countries you can settle in for your post-military life thanks to several factors ranging from many Veterans Administration health facilities and veterans per capita, to state tax policies and job opportunities for veterans.
Here are some of the many veterans’ benefits the state of Maryland offers to military retirees:
- Property tax exemption. Veterans with disabilities emanating from military-connected activities are exempted from property tax on their chief residence
- An income of up to $15,000 for retired military is exempted from income tax
- Retired military enjoy State Employment Veterans Preference
- Waiver on CDL class A and B skills test requirement for veterans
- Free fishing and hunting licenses for disabled veterans
- Waiver on entrance charges to state parks
- Exclusive veterans cemetery and no cost for burial plot
You will enjoy these and many more benefits if you wish to spend your post-military life in the state of Maryland.
#13 – Alabama
Alabama is one of the best states for military retirees thanks to its good economic environment for military veterans. In fact, a good number of businesses in Alabama are owned by veterans.
One of the outstanding benefit of spending your post-military life in Alabama is that it does not tax your military retirement income. Also, your social security benefits are exempted from taxes.
Here are a few more reasons to settle in Alabama as a military retiree:
- Exempt from ad valorem taxes on homes for totally disabled veterans
- Exempt from property tax for veterans who have acquired a home under VA’s housing grant
- All the military retirement pay is exempted from all income taxes in Alabama
- No license fees for vehicles owned by disabled veterans paid for by VA Grant
- When it comes to state employment, veterans who have been honorably discharged are given 5 points bonus on any examination scores
- Pistol permits are given to eligible individuals who retired from active duty, National Guard, and the Reserves
- Veterans have a reserved cemetery
#12 – Oklahoma
With a significant number of military bases, the Sooner State is proud of its residents who have retired from armed forces. Military veterans in Oklahoma enjoys many benefits including financial incentives.
The military installations in this state means that residents have ready and consistent access to any offices and services located in a military installation. In addition, there are plenty of government sector and defense jobs for retired military members looking to keep working in the field.
Another perk of living in Oklahoma is that it has low unemployment rate and thus your chances of landing a job are high. It also has exceptionally affordable housing as well as low cost of living which allows military veterans make the most out of their retirement.
Here are more benefits military retirees enjoy in Oklahoma:
- There are seven state veteran homes in Oklahoma which are open for honorably discharged military veterans in need of nursing care
- Property tax exemption for permanently disabled veterans
- Preference for state jobs for veterans
- Free admission to state owned museums and parks
There are also several organizations at community and state levels that offer information and assistance to military veterans. For instance, Veteran Support Alliance located at the University of Oklahoma offers scholarships to veterans who wish to return to college.
Oklahoma is a great state to spend your post-military years in thanks to the treatment you will get from government and society.
#11 – Connecticut
Connecticut is another great state that you can settle as a retired military service member thanks to the many military benefits you will enjoy including state employment preferences, Soldiers, Marines’, and Sailors’ fund, vehicle tags, tuition and education assistance, as well as fishing and hunting license privileges.
Of course, eligibility for some of these benefits depends on military component and veteran disability status.
Here are more benefits military retirees and veterans enjoys in Connecticut:
- Exemptions from property tax for veterans
- Military retirement pay is exempted from taxes
- State employment preference for veterans
- Free lifetime pass to all state forests and parks for its residents with disabilities caused by service-connected incidences
- A veteran who has been discharged honorably is eligible for burial in the exclusive state veterans cemetery
- There are Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives that help veterans in securing employment
Connecticut is one of the states that are trying to attract and keep military retirees by offering them attractive benefits and an enabling economic environment.
#10 – South Carolina
South Carolina was ranked as 5th best places for military retirees according to a recent study. The study took into consideration health care, quality of life, and economic environment. According to the study, SC ranked 1st for the highest percentage of military retirees-owned businesses and ranked 5th in most veterans per capita.
It is home to many military retirees and you too can become part of that community. However, if you are planning to retire in South Carolina, there a few interesting laws you need to know. Any man deemed adult (16 years) who proposes to a women must marry her. Failure to do so will lead to fines and an imprisonment for up to a year. On the flip side, you can beat your wife on the court house steps, on Sundays. Interesting, huh?
Related Article: 10 Benefits Of Being A Military Wife (and 5 not-so good things)
On serious matters, here are the benefits you can enjoy as a military retiree residing in SC:
- Eligibility to access South Carolina veterans home
- Retirement pay of up to $14,600 is tax free. For veterans older than 65 years, the amount increases to $27,000
- Permanently disabled veterans are eligible for exemption of property tax on their primary homes and deduction on homestead tax
- Honorably discharged veterans are given preferences for public and state jobs
- Free tuition for children of SC veterans who died in service or got permanent disability
- Burial site in veterans’ cemetery for honorably discharged SC resident military retirees and their spouses. There is no cost for burial site.
The amount of retirement pay that is tax free is set to increase even more in 2020 and is moving toward completely tax free by 2021. You can rarely go wrong by choosing to retire in South Carolina and the future is bright there.
#9 – Idaho
Home to more than 138,000 veterans, Idaho offers special benefits for its military retirees including compensation for active duty, state park passes, Idaho National Guard tuition scholarship, as well as fishing and hunting privileges
It was ranked 9th for healthcare and 8th best states for military retires in terms of number of VA health facilities, veterans per capita, and job opportunities for veterans.
The state of Idaho offers many veteran benefits including;
- Not taxing military retirement pay for retirees over 65
- Reduction in property tax for veterans with service connected disability
- Grocery tax credit for veterans aged 65 and above
- Wartime veterans in need of financial assistance can get a grant of up to $1,000 in cases of extreme emergency
- Employment preference for Idaho veteran in state and public jobs
- Eligibility for Idaho state veterans cemetery
It was discovered that Idaho takes care of its military retirees better than most states. In fact, Mike Crapo, U.S. Senator for Idaho, sent an open letter to veterans in Idaho, requesting them to share their experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The responses were used to improve the services offered to Veterans living in Idaho. This shows how much Idaho values military retirees.
#8 – South Dakota
Popularly known due to Mount Rushmore, the state of South Dakota made it to this list of best places to retire in thanks to its great healthcare. It boasts of a significant number of VA health facilities per 10,000 military retirees and has the most veteran job opportunities. Payment for military retirees is also exempted from taxation as well as inheritance and estate taxes.
Here are more benefits of spending your retirement years in South Dakota
- Eligibility for state veterans home for nursing care
- Property tax exemption for totally disabled military veterans
- South Dakota gives employment preference to veterans for all country and state jobs
- Honorably discharged military retirees who resides in SD are eligible for free education at state colleges
- Free admission to state parks for SD resident veterans
- Burial allowance for honorably discharged military retirees
Not only is South Dakota one of the best states for homeowners, it is an attractive state for veterans. This state does a good job at caring and supporting its veterans. With the highest rate of military retirees enrolled in VA health facilities in the country, you will feel at home residing here for your post-military life.
#7 – Minnesota
Most people associate the state of Minnesota with lots of snow and cold temperatures- not the ideal climate that most veterans dream of retiring to.
However, many military retirees have looked beyond the winter weather and looked at the greater benefits this state offers. Minnesota boasts of natural beauty and a wide variety of outdoor activities as well as veteran-friendly atmosphere.
Of course, the area is cold for most times of the year, but you will definitely meet warm personalities in this state.
In terms of veteran benefits, here are a few of them that might attract you to Minnesota:
- Eligibility for Minnesota veterans homes
- Military pay and retirement benefits are exempted from taxes
- Disabled veterans are exempted from property taxes to help them own a home easily
- The Subsistence program provides short-term financial assistance with utility insurance, housing, and other expenses
- MN veterans are granted a limited preference when it comes to hiring and promotion from public employment
- Disabled veterans are given free admission to Minnesota state parks
- There are two state veterans cemeteries open to veterans discharged honorably from the service
For retirees who can tolerate the cold, Minnesota is the place to be. It has friendly residents, plenty of cultural offerings and great outdoor recreation.
#6 – Alaska
Although it might not be the first state that clicks your mind when you think of retirement destination as a service member, Alaska offers some great perks aimed at military retirees.
In the recent report released by WalletHub, Alaska earned the top spot thanks to its friendly economic environment and high quality of life.
With the largest population of veterans, you can be assured of support and more services aimed at military retirees. Alaska also provides tax exemptions on retirement pay for military and has no inheritance or estate taxes.
Here are more veteran benefits
- Purchase preference for land at a restricted sale at market value
- 25 percent discount on purchase price of recreational/residential land
- Veterans Mortgage Program advances loans to eligible veterans at low interest rates
- Property tax exemption for veterans who are disabled or those with VA
- State employment preference for military retirees
- Alaska Railroad offers 20 percent discount for military retirees, active duty officers, and their dependents. You need to produce your ID when boarding
While retiring in Alaska means forfeiting the dreams of spending your golden years sipping cocktails on sandy beaches, especially for people who love outdoor activities, Alaska offers a different paradise full of extra economic benefits as well.
Ranked number one as per a recent report by WalletHub, this state is one of the best for military retires. With over 20 job centers prioritizing military retirees for employment openings as well as veterans land discount program, Alaska is definitely a retirement destination worth a consideration.
#5 – Massachusetts
Although Massachusetts experiences cold, snowy winters, it is still considered a best state to retire as a veteran thanks to the quality health care for seniors. Despite the cost of living being quite high as compared to most states on this list, Massachusetts offers special benefits to retired military service members including state employment hiring preference, property tax exemptions for disabled, and much more.
Let’s look at some of the benefits extended to military retirees in Massachusetts:
- Emergency housing facilities to eligible veterans. These homes are maintained and are meant to be used by veterans who are seeking residential homes
- Military retired income is exempted from taxes
- Property tax exemptions for disabled veterans
- Mobile vehicle tax exemption for disabled veterans
- Sales tax exemption for disabled veterans
- Preference for state employment over non-military resident
- Massachusetts veterans also get tuition waiver in all state universities and colleges
- State veterans’ cemeteries are offered to eligible veterans at no cost to give them a honorable burial
With these benefits and more, you will find it easier and comfortable to retire in Massachusetts knowing that the government sees you as a person of great value to the state.
#4 – New Hampshire
When you think of retirement, you probably avoid the Northeast region because winters can be cold in that part of the U.S. and cost of living tends to be steeper as compared to other regions. However, New Hampshire has beat the odds and is one of the most attractive destination for retirees, especially military retires thanks to the many veterans-related benefits it offers.
The Granite State ranks as one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees and doesn’t tax retirement income and social security benefits.
Here are several veterans’ benefits you will enjoy as a New Hampshire resident:
- You can access New Hampshire veterans home
- Wartime veterans are eligible for property tax credit
- Support for war veterans and their families who are unable to meet their daily needs
- Veterans will be given preference for city and district jobs
- Free tuition for children of military members who die in service during wartime
- All veterans are eligible to get burial site in New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery
New Hampshire is another state you can consider for retirement. It has a high number of veteran-owned businesses, which gives you confidence that you, too, can thrive there. Besides, NH offers tax exemptions for retirement pay and survivor benefits. There are also no estate or inheritance tax, and as a veteran you will be given preference for city and district jobs. What more could you have asked for?
#3 – Maine
Maine has become a popular retirement destination for many, including military retirees because of its attractive beaches as well as practical resources.
Maine retirees are people looking for an affordable and active lifestyle. In fact, the senior population outnumber all other age groups in this state. With an increase in older population, it is evident that this New England state offers a friendly environment for anyone to spend their golden years there.
For military retirees, here are more reasons to choose Maine as your retirement destination:
- Honorably discharged Maine veterans are eligible for property tax exemption
- State employment preference points are added to examination scores for state and public jobs for honorably discharged veterans
- Maine offers waiver of tuition at state schools for dependents of veterans
- Any Maine veteran gets free admission to all state’s historic sites and parks
- There are four cemeteries reserved for Maine veterans
It is easier to see why Maine is a dream retirement destination for many people including military retirees. In fact, Maine is one of the few states with most veterans per capita. The high quality of life as well as retirement pay exemption and lack of inheritance tax makes it a great state to spend your post-military life in.
#2 – Florida
Ask any veteran living in Florida what influenced their decision to move and stay there, and you will hear the same response from virtually everyone. The state offered me education avenues and numerous job options, warm climate and natural surroundings, as well as a community that values and supports veterans.
While each city in Florida possesses its own set of features and characteristics, all of them share qualities that appeal to military retirees seeking to build a new life in a civilian sphere.
Here are reasons Florida is a great retirement destination for military retirees”
- It ranks as the 3rd state in the country with largest veteran population
- There are 6 veterans nursing requirements which means health care needs for military retirees is well-taken care of
- Resident veterans with disability are eligible for basic property tax exemptions
- Preference is given to Florida veterans for government jobs
- There are several veteran education benefits including tuition waiver at state universities, career and technical training facilities as well as community colleges for resident with Purple Heart decorations
- Disabled and honorably discharged veterans are eligible for free or reduced entrance fees to county and municipal parks
Florida is labeled ‘The Sunshine State’ for good reasons- its sunny and warm climate as well gorgeous beaches and lush forests makes it an ideal state to spend your golden years in. It is viewed as one of the best retirement destinations because of high quality of life and quality health care facilities, as well as its many military-bound benefits it offers to military retirees.
#1 – Virginia
Home to more presidents than any other state in the US, Virginia is full of culture, rural towns, history, and thriving cities appealing to military retirees who are considering retirement. On one side are mountains while on the other end is the Atlantic Ocean. Summers can be hot and winter temperatures are milder than in the north.
Here are reasons to spend your post-military life in Virginia:
- Honorably discharged veterans are eligible for admission to veterans homes in Virginia
- Disabled veterans are exempted from real estate tax on their home
- Veterans preference for state jobs
- Education benefits to military survivors and dependents
- Honorably discharged veterans have a cemetery reserved for them to give them a decent send off
Virginia cities are full of life and culture. With high job prospects, education opportunities, and plenty to do in this state, how could Virginia not be a dream retirement destination for any military retiree?
Here’s a list of states that do NOT tax military retirement pay, but do tax individual income:
- New Jersey
- New York
- West Virginia
When you retire from the military, you regain your long-lost freedom to choose where you live. At times it can be confusing to know the best states to retire in. The above 15 best states for military retirees are good for you and we ranked them based on quality of life, health care, and economic environment.
Considering that the average age of a military retiree is between 43 years and 47 years, you still have active years ahead. You will find a vibrant city in any of the above city to spend your post-military life in.
Note: Military benefits are always changing; therefore, it is important to keep up with everything; from health care to tax waivers.