D.C. May Be a Military Center, But It’s Not Hospitable to Vets

Expensive housing, few veteran-owned businesses among reasons for low ranking, survey finds

By Dana Wilkie Jun 1, 2015
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One would think that the Washington, D.C. area—home to the Pentagon, Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs—would be the ideal place for a retired military man or woman to live. 

Not so, according to a new survey by WalletHub that examines the best and worst states for military retirees.

The survey, released May 19, 2015, concluded that Wyoming is actually the most hospitable place for veterans, based on 20 metrics ranging from job opportunities for veterans to the number of Veterans Administration (VA) health facilities in a state. The metrics used by WalletHub, a personal finance social network, “speak collectively to the economic environment, health care services and overall quality of life in each area,” a press release said. 

Washington, D.C., ranked low—at No. 49. The only states that ranked lower were Rhode Island at No. 50 and Indiana at No. 51. 

D.C. was found to have the fewest veterans per 100 inhabitants; the fewest VA facilities per 10,000 veterans; the highest percentage of homeless veterans per number of veterans; the least affordable housing; and the fewest veteran-owned businesses per 1,000 inhabitants. 

On the other hand, D.C. scored in the top five states in one area: It has among the most job opportunities for veterans. 

Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Maine and Florida made up the top five states in the overall rankings.

“Retirement is typically viewed as the end of the line—a time for rest, relaxation and the pursuit of interests long ago put on the back burner,” the WalletHub release said. “But the narrative is far different for military retirees.”

The average age of a retiring military officer is 47.1 years old, while the average age of retiring enlisted personnel is 43.2 years, WalletHub said. As a result, most retirees are looking for civilian jobs. 

“Military retirees, veterans in particular, must also deal with the trials of assimilation, which have proven especially difficult in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” the press release said. “Rising numbers of young vets have encountered hardship and homelessness.” 

Steve Abel, founding director of the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, said in an interview published with the survey that companies should take advantage of veterans’ leadership skills. 

“Companies are looking for leaders … with integrity, initiative, solid work ethic [and] habits, and are willing to compensate based on these values,” he said. “Finance, IT [and] HR appear to me to be solid areas … but management positions across a broader range of career fields work.”

Jason B. Burke, director of veteran and military affairs at Quinnipiac University, said that government jobs are ideal for veterans, in part because such jobs typically offer well-established pay ranges that aren’t lowered just because a veteran has a military retirement income. He said that he knows of “civilian companies that may lowball a potential new hire based on their retirement pay income. It’s not ethical, but it happens.” 

Among the survey’s other findings: 

  • Alaska has the most veterans per 100 inhabitants; New York has the fewest. 
  • New York has the most VA facilities per 10,000 veterans; Rhode Island has the fewest. 
  • Virginia has the lowest percentage of homeless veterans per number of veterans in the state; D.C. has the highest. 
  • North Dakota has the most job opportunities for veterans; Maryland has the fewest. 
  • Iowa has the most affordable housing; D.C. has the least affordable. 
  • Montana has the most veteran-owned businesses per 1,000 inhabitants; Utah has the fewest. 

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow her at @SHRMDana 

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