To help former U.S. military service members achieve a comfortable standard of living, the consumer finance site WalletHub has compiled a list of the most veteran-friendly cities.
WalletHub devised the rankings by comparing 100 of the most populated cities in the country across a series of criteria that includes job growth, housing affordability, and the amount of homeless veterans and health facilities in each region.
Upon return, many veterans have to deal with inadequate mental health care, unemployment and homelessness. Last year, veterans’ health issues gained media attention around the country after allegations surfaced that dozens of veterans died waiting for treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
Irvine, California topped the list as the most “livable” city, with two other California cities making the top 10 (San Diego and Sacramento).
Iowa State University professor Alicia Carriquiry said she thinks there are several high-quality medical centers in California that make many of the state’s cities good locations for veterans, health care wise. However, there were also several California cities that received low rankings, including San Bernardino at no. 90.
Meanwhile, Detroit, Michigan ranked last, which Carriquiry said may be due to overall high level of unemployment in the city — for veterans and non-veterans.
In Michigan as a whole, there are a large number of veterans relative to the state’s overall population, which can make it difficult for veterans to receive resources, said Joshua Kay, a clinical law professor at the University of Michigan and director of the school’s Veterans Legal Clinic. About 700,000 veterans live in Michigan, which has a population of nearly 10 million.
Thousands of veterans also face homelessness —the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that in January 2014, 49,933 veterans were homeless on any given night.
Dennis Culhane, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said veterans are twice as likely to be homeless than non-veterans among the poor population.
Culhane said this may be because some veterans already come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and because some have difficulty reintegrating in society due to the development of mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, during their service.
"Once people are in the military, they have exposure to different kinds of risks that could complicate their lives," Culhane said.
And after coming back home, it can be difficult for veterans to find employment.
“Often work isn’t necessarily of a sort that draws on their military skill set...though some jobs do.” Kay said.“So getting adequate training and access to jobs is really important.”
Things may be looking up for veterans, though: veteran unemployment hit a seven-year low in October. The rate dipped from 4.3 percent in September to 3.9 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Most vets who are returning do quite well — and I think that’s an important point to make,” Kay said. “That said, there is a tremendous need among vets in the areas of employment, housing, mental health care and medical care.”