These are the best states for veterans to live and work in 2020

Nationwide, roughly 18.8 million Americanswere veterans in 2019, accounting for 8% of the U.S. civilian population. And just as the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain segments of the population — particularly people who are BlackHispaniclow-income and women — many veterans are being uniquely hard-hit by the virus’s health and economic consequences.

For example, 15% of veterans work in industries hit hardest by the financial impact of the coronavirus, and more than 1 million vets filed for unemployment in April, sending the veteran jobless rate to 11.7%. The jobless rate for veterans has fallen back to 5.5% as of October 2020, though this share is still elevated from the 3% veteran unemployment rate one year ago.Veterans are more likely to have a disability they incurred during active duty, and they face more challenges transitioning their military skills into a civilian job. Furthermore, half of U.S. veterans are over age 65 and are nearing retirement.

But in some areas of the country, Veterans Affairs resources and state-level organizations can provide health and financial assistance to veterans impacted by the virus and help them long after their military career.

With this in mind, personal finance site SmartAsset analyzed national data across nine key metrics to name the best states for veterans to live and work this year.

Rankings are based on metrics that reflect economic opportunities and support for veterans, such as a high share of veterans; low housing costs compared to median income for veterans; a large number of veteran-owned businesses; percentage of a state’s businesses owned by veterans; accessible Veterans Affairs health centers and benefits administration facilities; and low or no taxes on military pensions.

Overall, South Dakotaranks highest as the best state for veterans to live and work this year, according to SmartAsset. Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia and Maine round out the top five.

Generally, “states with smaller populations rank as better places for veterans to live and work,” SmartAsset spokesperson Kara Gibson tells CNBC Make It. “These states tend to have more VA health facilities and VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 veterans, along with higher percentages of businesses that are veteran-owned. Plus, eight of the top 10 states do not tax military pensions.”

Additionally, many of these states offer their own benefits to service members that can help them maintain financial stability through economic turbulence, including tax exemptions on property or military pensions; homebuying assistance programs; lower tuition rates for college; and grants to cover living costs.

To account for the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on veterans state-by-state today, the SmartAsset analysis considers both the 2019 veteran unemployment rate along with the jobless rate for all workers from September 2020 to account for current conditions.

“While places like the District of Columbia, Maryland and Rhode Island had lower unemployment rates among veterans in 2019, they did not crack the top of our list due, in part, to their higher September 2020 unemployment rates,” Gibson explains. She adds that SmartAsset plans to conduct the study again in 2021 to get a fuller picture of how the coronavirus impacts veteran employment as the pandemic continues.

Here are the best states for veterans to live and work in 2020, according to SmartAsset.

SmartAsset top 10 states for veterans in 2020

SmartAsset

1. South Dakota

Veterans as percent of the population: 8.55%

Median veteran income: $42,196 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 23.89%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 10.45%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 21.04

Veteran poverty rate: 6.6%

2. Wyoming

Veterans as percent of the population: 9.37%

Median veteran income: $46,295 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 23.59%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 8.79%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 28.99

Veteran poverty rate: 7.1%

3. North Dakota

Veterans as percent of the population: 7.97%

Median veteran income: $49,557 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 19.90%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 8.11%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 19.55

Veteran poverty rate: 6.7%

4. West Virginia

Veterans as percent of the population: 8.46%

Median veteran income: $38,436 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 18.95%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 9.82%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 12.39

Veteran poverty rate: 7.9%

5. Maine

Veterans as percent of the population: 8.89%

Median veteran income: $38,647 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 29.31%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 8.6%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 11.29

Veteran poverty rate: 6.4%

6. Alaska

Veterans as percent of the population: 10.74%

Median veteran income: $51,892 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 29.88%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 11.6%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 10.48

Veteran poverty rate: 6.6%

7. Nebraska

Veterans as percent of the population: 7.72%

Median veteran income: $45,359

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 24.68%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 8.74%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 10.70

Veteran poverty rate: 5.9%

8. New Hampshire

Veterans as percent of the population: 8.52%

Median veteran income: $45,415

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 36.25%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 9.42%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 7.46

Veteran poverty rate: 6.1%

9. Montana

Veterans as percent of the population: 10.28%

Median veteran income: $36,853

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 27.97%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 9.38%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 20.86

Veteran poverty rate: 7.7%

10. Hawaii

Veterans as percent of the population: 8.45%

Median veteran income: $50,701 per year

Housing costs as percent of median veteran income: 39.41%

Share of veteran-owned businesses: 9.08%

VA Health facilities per 100,000 veterans: 8.85

Veteran poverty rate: 5.8%

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