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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 30, 201805:10 AM EST

Is Northeast Florida a good place for veterans to retire?

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Two companies looking at data on veterans’ resources in the 100 largest U.S. cities rank the area no lower than 22nd.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Everyone knows Jacksonville is a military town.

In addition to the active duty personnel in the U.S. Navy, a large number of retiring servicemen and servicewomen are deciding that they liked their time here so much that they want to settle down in Northeast Florida.

But how does Jacksonville compare with other cities as a home for veterans? It depends who you ask.

Two companies this month assessed data on veterans’ resources in the 100 largest U.S. cities and came up with different rankings for the best cities.

Veterans United Home Loans, a mortgage lender which focuses on VA loans, ranked Jacksonville as the eighth best community for veterans.

However, personal credit data company WalletHub ranked Jacksonville 22nd.

Veterans United looked at 20 metrics that it determined reflect a city’s ability to provide opportunities for veterans as they transition to civilian life.

“Our research shows that being part of a community that understands the unique needs of military families is a huge benefit,” Shelley Kimball, research director of the Military Family Advisory Network, said in Veterans United’s news release.

“Access to affordable housing and gainful employment for both the service member and spouse are critical not just for financial health, but also extends to mental health, stable relationships and overall happy families,” she said.

Veterans account for 9.2 percent of the Jacksonville area population, sixth highest among the 100 cities, Veterans United said.

The study found 7.5 percent of those veterans are living below the poverty line, ranking Jacksonville 32nd, and 0.1 of every 1,000 veterans are homeless, ranking Jacksonville 33rd.

Most Jacksonville veterans are doing well financially, compared with their peers in other communities. Veterans United said the median percentage of a veteran’s income spent on cost-of-living expenses in Jacksonville is 34.7 percent, ranking the city 13th.

One area where Jacksonville ranks poorly is access to VA health facilities. Veterans United said the area has 0.1 VA health facilities per 1,000 veterans, ranking Jacksonville 96th of the 100 cities.

WalletHub’s study looked at 18 metrics within four main categories.

Its study found Jacksonville ranked 13th among the 100 cities for access and quality of VA health facilities.

Jacksonville ranked 29th for its economy, which included metrics on income and housing affordability, but ranked 64th for jobs, looking at opportunities for veterans.

The overall quality of life for Jacksonville ranked 33rd, WalletHub said.

Two other Florida cities ranked in the top 10 overall in WalletHub’s study. Tampa was ninth and Orlando was 10th.

However, in the Veterans United study, Tampa came in 21st and Orlando came in 50th.

WalletHub ranked Austin, Texas, as the best city overall for veterans while Veterans United chose another Texas city, San Antonio.

Raleigh, North Carolina, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, ranked in the top 10 in both companies’ rankings, so those communities are obviously appealing for veterans.

But where’s the best place for veterans to settle down? It seems the jury is still out.

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