States with the most veterans

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May 15, 2020
PEPPERSMINT // Shutterstock

States with the most veterans

Every day, thousands of brave men and women put their lives on the line to defend the United States. And every day, more and more members of the military hang up their uniforms and settle into a much-deserved retirement. Serving in the military is an incredible sacrifice, and the members of the U.S. Armed Forces have chosen to serve the nation in one of the most selfless ways possible. Today there are more than 18 million U.S. veterans.

But for many in the military, service doesnʼt end upon returning home. The effects of service can be long-lasting, often for life. And while many Americans are grateful for veteransʼ service, there is still much to learn about how to properly help veterans reacclimate to civilian life.

Many veterans are unaware of what options are available to them, while more are affected drastically by mental health issues and are unable to reintegrate without proper care. Many states are working tirelessly to combat the issues that their resident veterans face, while others still have some catching up to do in the way of veteran education and relief. With Memorial Day just around the corner, it is interesting to see where improvement is needed as a country with respect to honoring and supporting veterans.

Where do our veterans decide to settle upon returning home?

Stacker examined 2018 U.S. Census data released in December 2019 to determine which states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have the highest rates of veterans as a percentage of the adult civilian population. The Census defines veterans as those who have formerly had active duty service across the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, in addition to U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

For each location, estimated populations for veterans—coming from recent tours of duty today to as far back as World War II—are provided, offering a glimpse into the legacy of service that resides within each state, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Read on to learn about the U.S. states with the most vets.

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Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#52. Puerto Rico

- Total veterans: 74,415 (2.9% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,486 (2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 12,559 (16.9% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 26,980 (36.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 9,277 (12.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 13,847 (18.6% of veterans)

Compared to the rest of the country, Puerto Rico is not the most popular retirement address for veterans. According to Harry Franqui-Rivera of NBC News, the reasons are varied. “Our history is filled with injustices committed toward African American and Latino veterans, including those who have died serving the nation,” he writes. As a result, young Puerto Rican veterans have started moving off the island. Today less than 3% of the population of Puerto Rico is made up of veterans.

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Mariordo (Mario Roverto Durán Ortiz) // Wikimedia Commons

#51. Washington D.C.

- Total veterans: 23,254 (4.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 982 (4.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 2,115 (9.1% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 5,469 (23.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 5,540 (23.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 7,526 (32.4% of veterans)

Unfortunately, like many other areas in the country, Washington D.C. suffers from a high level of homelessness among veterans. However, the capital city has had a goal for years to permanently fix the issue. According to Cassidy Jensen of The DC Line, the district has been decreasing homeless numbers among veterans for the past five years. It has decreased the number of homeless veterans by 27%.

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Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#50. New Jersey

- Total veterans: 308,012 (4.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 14,284 (4.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 35,461 (11.5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 112,419 (36.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 39,115 (12.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 49,242 (16% of veterans)

New Jerseyʼs veteran population is among the lowest in the country, and data is showing that those numbers could shrink smaller still. According to Susanne Cervenka of the Asbury Park Press, the state’s veteran population could dwindle to a third of what it is today during the next 30 years. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) believes the number of veterans in the nation will shrink overall, but that there will be a particularly steep drop-off in New Jersey.

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U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons

#49. New York

- Total veterans: 678,833 (4.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 29,951 (4.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 63,584 (9.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 246,548 (36.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 94,729 (14% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 106,916 (15.7% of veterans)

There are less than 1 million veterans in New York State, totaling 4.4% of the population 18 or older. Still, it’s one of the only states in the nation that does not have a cemetery dedicated exclusively to veterans. All of that is about to change, though. In November 2019, on the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is introducing legislation to establish the first veterans cemetery in New York, writes Marian Hetherly in NPRʼs WSKG.

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Flickr

#48. California

- Total veterans: 1,538,797 (5.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 52,717 (3.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 129,184 (8.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 537,650 (34.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 293,661 (19.1% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 325,615 (21.2% of veterans)

Approximately 5% of Californiaʼs population 18 or older is composed of veterans, though looking strictly at numbers, the state has one of the highest populations of veterans, at 1.5 million. True to California's innovation and emphasis on the outdoors, the state is considering creative ways to help its large vet population cope with some of the side effects of military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At the end of 2019, CBS News reported that Southern California launched a new recovery program for vets that paired sea lions injured in the wild with veterans dealing with PTSD.

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Danielle Lee Brown // Shutterstock

#47. Massachusetts

- Total veterans: 292,644 (5.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 11,686 (4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 30,026 (10.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 103,306 (35.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 41,948 (14.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 48,182 (16.5% of veterans)

Soldiers know that there is always a risk and a price for combat, but they may not always recognize just how high the cost. According to the VA, post-traumatic stress disorder is a common side effect among combat veterans, hovering around 20% for those involved in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and as high as 30% for those who were active in the Vietnam War. For Massachusetts’ veterans, marijuana is being used to treat PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression among veterans. Findings from the 2019 Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study looked at 201 veterans in Massachusetts, a large majority of whom responded that cannabis provided relief, according to Susan Spencerʼs article in South Coast Today.

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Ken Lund // Flickr

#46. Utah

- Total veterans: 120,410 (5.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 3,454 (2.9% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 7,958 (6.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 41,246 (34.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 29,365 (24.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 29,671 (24.6% of veterans)

While 5.4% of Utah’s population is made up of veterans, it’s not the easiest place for them to carry on as civilians. According to a 2019 report from finance website WalletHub, Utah ranked as the ninth worst place for veterans. According to Hunter Geiselʼs article on KUTV.com, the decision was based on the economic environment, quality of life, and health care. These categories are further broken down into job opportunities, quality of public university systems, share of veterans not receiving food stamps, the stateʼs number of VA health facilities, and more.

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Robert Lawton // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Illinois

- Total veterans: 559,656 (5.7% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 17,975 (3.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 45,343 (8.1% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 203,913 (36.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 98,953 (17.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 98,857 (17.7% of veterans)

Ever since 1944, returning veterans have been entitled to something known as the GI Bill, which is a law that offers benefits to help veterans pay for education and training programs. According to an August 2019 article in the Chicago Tribune by Kate Thayer, more than 780,000 veterans used their GI Bill to attend school in 2018. More than 21,000 of those veterans were at schools in Illinois.

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Stephanie Dreyer // DOD

#44. Connecticut

- Total veterans: 165,029 (5.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 6,687 (4.1% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 15,716 (9.5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 61,354 (37.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 23,009 (13.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 26,712 (16.2% of veterans)

Unfortunately, reentry to civilian life is not always easy for veterans. In fact, sometimes it’s downright impossible. A sad reality is that there are more than 40,000 homeless veterans in the United States, and many individual states have been trying for years to pare down that population and give veterans homes and services that they desperately need and deserve. Connecticut is one of those states. According to Bill Floodʼs piece on Fox61, Connecticut is showing that homelessness among veterans fell to 2.1% in 2019.

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Chief Petty Officer James Foehl // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Rhode Island

- Total veterans: 54,848 (6.5% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,534 (4.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 4,182 (7.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 21,323 (38.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 8,009 (14.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 11,227 (20.5% of veterans)

Employment can already be a challenge for veterans. Throw a global pandemic in the mix, and a bleak situation becomes dismal at best. However some states, like Rhode Island, are prioritizing the employment of veterans when unemployment is at an all-time high right now, due to COVID-19. One group, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, is leading the fight for employment for veterans, reports the Johnston Sunrise. OSDRIʼs case managers have worked to identify veterans across the homeless shelters in the state and place elderly veterans in local hotels.

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ANDREW C. // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Vermont

- Total veterans: 33,986 (6.7% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,013 (3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 2,605 (7.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 15,017 (44.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 5,172 (15.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 3,806 (11.2% of veterans)

For many veterans returning home, the adjustment to civilian life is fraught with obstacles. More often than not, the military does not provide adequate support for transitioning to civilian life. With that comes a high rate of depression, anxiety, and, in many cases, suicide. According to the VTDigger, the veteran suicide rate in Vermont is one of the highest in the nation. Reporter Peng Chen wrote that Vermontʼs rate was higher than the national rate annually between 2005-2016. According to Chen’s sources, there is no definitive explanation, though some experts cited high rates of gun ownership and difficulty reintegrating into society.

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Bjoertvedt // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Minnesota

- Total veterans: 294,377 (6.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 10,337 (3.5% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 27,839 (9.5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 111,668 (37.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 44,023 (15% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 46,837 (15.9% of veterans)

As unemployment sweeps across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota is responding to help its resident veterans. In April 2020, Reid Forgrave reported in the Star Tribune that the Minnesota Legislature had pushed through $6.2 million for the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which supported two types of grants. The first is Disaster Relief Grants, which gives $1,000 to veterans affected by the pandemic, and the second is a COVID-19 Special Needs Grants for veterans who were impacted more than just financially.

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Dwight Burdette // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Michigan

- Total veterans: 530,572 (6.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 15,986 (3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 39,823 (7.5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 203,602 (38.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 86,141 (16.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 74,655 (14.1% of veterans)

Approximately one homeless person in 10 is a U.S. veteran. But Michigan, a state where veterans comprise nearly 7% of the population, is working to offer assistance to help combat this widespread problem. The state is home to Vets Returning Home, based in the town of Roseville. The transitional house was established to help returning soldiers transition to independent, civilian life. In five years since its inception, the home has helped more than 1,400 veterans, writes Rachelle Spence in NBC 25 News.

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Michael Barera // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Texas

- Total veterans: 1,435,787 (6.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 23,940 (1.7% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 82,304 (5.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 471,690 (32.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 362,718 (25.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 396,060 (27.6% of veterans)

Texas has one of the largest populations of veterans in the country, second only to California. The state continues to be one of the most affordable and veteran-friendly places to live, according to an article in Forbes by Brenda Richardson, who cites Veterans United Home Loansʼ list of affordable places for veterans to consider when settling down. Among the cities in Texas, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, El Paso, and San Antonio top the list.

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Brad Armentor // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Louisiana

- Total veterans: 247,339 (7% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 6,015 (2.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 15,842 (6.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 87,280 (35.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 60,139 (24.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 53,908 (21.8% of veterans)

Veterans amount to 7% of the population in Louisiana. In August 2019, the state launched a program designed to promote veteran-owned businesses. The Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative promotes businesses through certifications, displays, and an online database. According to WAFBʼs staff writers, the initiative recognizes businesses that are majority-owned by veterans, military reservists, active-duty personnel, or Gold Star family members. Within days of the program's launch, hundreds of businesses had registered on the site.

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U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aramis X. Ramirez // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Mississippi

- Total veterans: 162,926 (7.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,602 (1.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 11,037 (6.8% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 52,935 (32.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 41,410 (25.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 37,216 (22.8% of veterans)

Mississippi’s veteran population—about 7.2% of the total population—is committed to education. In 2019, the University of Mississippi was ranked among the nation’s top places for veterans to earn a degree. According to the Ole Miss University of Mississippi News, the institutions were scored in five categories, including university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes, and cost/financial aid. “The center serves active military, veteran and military dependent students by providing a space for them to study, receive support and camaraderie from other veterans, and speak with university representatives about veteran issues,” the article reports.

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Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Wisconsin

- Total veterans: 326,288 (7.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 8,611 (2.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 26,929 (8.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 124,986 (38.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 51,914 (15.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 49,132 (15.1% of veterans)

Wisconsin is home to more than 300,000 veterans, more than 44,000 of whom live in Milwaukee County. In spring 2019, the state announced it was going to open its first peer-run veteran respite program, with the mission to help veterans work with other veterans to address issues and problems. Spectrum News 1 reporter Megan Hedstrom wrote, “The program will allow veterans to create a sense of culture and it will also allow them to relate to others who have shared experiences.” Mental health is a rampant problem among veterans, and Wisconsin is no exception, as veterans account for 20% of suicides in the state. A center such as this allows veterans to have another avenue of communication in hopes of promoting better mental health and well-being.

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MPHaas // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Pennsylvania

- Total veterans: 745,909 (7.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 27,651 (3.7% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 64,293 (8.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 278,351 (37.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 123,107 (16.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 112,778 (15.1% of veterans)

In Pennsylvania there are just shy of 800,000 veterans living in the state, many of whom live in rural areas and work in the agriculture industry, growing food to help feed the nation. In November 2019 the government amended the PA Farm Bill to support the Homegrown by Heroes program, which supports veterans working in agriculture. According to an article in Lancaster Farming, the amendment provides $1 million to farmer veterans to increase program membership, improve consumer awareness, and offer services to help their individual marketing.

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Huw Williams // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Indiana

- Total veterans: 380,079 (7.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 9,272 (2.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 26,909 (7.1% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 136,161 (35.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 67,337 (17.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 67,155 (17.7% of veterans)

Approximately 32,000 of the 380,000 veterans in Indiana are women. Women were allowed to join the Army in the 1940s, yet their stories as veterans go widely unheard. A national campaign known as “I Am Not Invisible” helps spotlight the thousands of women who have courageously served the country. The Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs hosted photo shoots in January for its women veterans, many of whom were in the spotlight for the first time, writes The Indy Channel. The photos were part of a greater campaign for Womenʼs History Month, and featured a virtual exhibit spotlighting the faces of women who have served the military.

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Antony-22 // Wikimedia Commons

#33. Ohio

- Total veterans: 680,310 (7.5% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 20,559 (3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 48,833 (7.2% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 245,852 (36.1% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 119,393 (17.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 111,617 (16.4% of veterans)

Ohio is home to approximately 67,000 women veterans, who, much like the rest of the country’s women veterans, go unnoticed. But in late 2019, a bill was presented to Gov. Mike DeWine, proposing to designate June 12 as Women Veterans’ Day in Ohio. Mary Kuhlman writes in Cleveland Scene that the number of female veterans is growing, while the overall number of veterans is decreasing. The latest information from the VA shows that the number of female veterans will grow from 9% to 16% by 2042.

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David Wilson // Flickr

#32. Iowa

- Total veterans: 184,032 (7.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 5,863 (3.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 17,282 (9.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 66,990 (36.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 33,593 (18.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 29,563 (16.1% of veterans)

Many of Iowaʼs 184,000 veterans are turning to an alternative, ancient method for healing. Tai chi, the ancient Chinese martial art, is being incorporated into rehab programs for veterans across the state as a means to help bring relief from anxiety, PTSD, and physical issues. According to a piece from Shirley Wang and Charity Nebbe on Iowa Public Radio, tai chi has helped many Iowa veterans quell their PTSD nightmares, and has helped them be more focused, present, and calm in social situations and everyday life.

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Sgt. 1st Class Scott Raymond // U.S. Army National Guard

#31. Kentucky

- Total veterans: 261,887 (7.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 4,635 (1.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 16,606 (6.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 92,698 (35.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 59,532 (22.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 52,350 (20% of veterans)

Veterans are heroes because they take on a tremendous burden and a lifetime of anxiety and stress, so that everyone can live peacefully without fear. Unfortunately, the side effects of all that veterans have to endure can be more than many can handle. Veterans are victims of suicide at nearly twice the rate of people who have never served, and according to Kyeland Jacksonʼs piece on WFPL, Kentucky leads the nation in veteran suicide. But the state is stepping up to help bring those numbers down. According to the piece, Gov. Matt Bevin has signed laws that support Kentucky’s veterans, including one in 2017 to help veterans easily obtain teaching certificates. At the end of 2019, he also signed eight other pro-veteran bills designed to help the lives of military personnel long after service.

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Michael Rivera // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Georgia

- Total veterans: 609,508 (7.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 9,842 (1.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 30,649 (5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 200,319 (32.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 164,417 (27% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 144,746 (23.7% of veterans)

Of Georgiaʼs 609,000 veterans, around 700 are homeless. Though a small percentage compared to other states, it’s still 700 too many. To help tackle this issue, George nonprofit Nine Line Foundation teamed up with a few state organizations to offer dozens of tiny homes to the homeless veterans of Georgia, writes Stephanie Toone in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The temporary houses, measuring 8-by-16-feet, are meant to be a transitional place of residence for veterans, who will be learning skills at a nearby training center to help them gain employment.

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U.S. Air Force/Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp // Wikimedia Commons

#29. North Dakota

- Total veterans: 45,135 (7.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,628 (3.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 2,857 (6.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 15,677 (34.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 8,920 (19.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 10,874 (24.1% of veterans)

One of the greatest challenges between veterans and civilians is the ability to understand one another. For veterans, relating to traditional life can be exceptionally hard. And for civilians, understanding the damage that war can inflict is often impossible. This is why so many veterans fall victim to a judicial system that is not set up to properly address their very specific needs. North Dakota, however, is taking steps to create a veterans’ court system, writes Hannah Shirley in the Grand Forks Herald. The first in the state, the system would offer a new approach to rehabilitating veterans, who often get lost in the shuffle of the criminal justice system.

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Tim Evanson // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Maryland

- Total veterans: 363,178 (7.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 10,079 (2.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 22,447 (6.2% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 111,591 (30.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 100,000 (27.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 96,715 (26.6% of veterans)

More than 7% of Marylandʼs population is made up of veterans, and the state is taking crucial steps to help them earn an education. Earlier this year, the state’s House of Delegates passed legislation to stop for-profit colleges from getting more than 90% of their revenue from federal student assistance—it’s known as the 90/10 rule. According to Danielle Douglas-Gabrielʼs March 2020 article in The Washington Post, “Military and veteransʼ education benefits do not count toward that threshold,” which can often lead to for-profit schools aggressively recruiting veterans. Under the new bill, however, the federal funding provided to for-profit colleges in Maryland would be beholden to the 90/10 rule.

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Josh Plueger // U.S. Air Force

#27. Nebraska

- Total veterans: 116,754 (8.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 3,231 (2.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 10,144 (8.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 40,072 (34.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 28,014 (24% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 24,870 (21.3% of veterans)

More than 8% of Nebraskaʼs population are veterans. So where is the best place for veterans to settle after leaving the military? According to a November 2019 CNBC article by Jennifer Liu, it’s Lincoln, the state’s capital city. Liu highlighted a study from SmartAsset, a personal finance company, that analyzed census data to find out where veterans thrive after returning home. According to the report, Lincoln is the fifth most successful city for veterans. Approximately 6% of Lincolnʼs population are veterans, with a veteran unemployment rate of under 1%. The median income for veterans in Lincoln is approximately $44,000.

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Michael Barera // Wikimedia Commons

#26. Arkansas

- Total veterans: 187,903 (8.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 4,314 (2.3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 13,947 (7.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 69,185 (36.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 40,780 (21.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 36,393 (19.4% of veterans)

For veterans living in Arkansas, the Veterans Affairs Volunteer Services at the VA Medical Center at North Little Rock has pledged its support to mental health for veterans. Approximately 100 in-patient veterans have been provided supplies to make cloth masks during the COVID-19 health crisis, reports The Pine Bluff Commercial. The program gives veterans a therapeutic environment and provides them with an activity to help ease mental anguish.

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U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin P. Nesbitt // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Missouri

- Total veterans: 384,150 (8.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 9,012 (2.3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 28,648 (7.5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 148,953 (38.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 72,650 (18.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 70,919 (18.5% of veterans)

For many politicians, it is widely accepted taboo to talk about psychological conditions while on the campaign trail, or in office. But Jason Kander, a Democrat from Missouri, is using his personal experience with PTSD to help make life better for veterans. Kander was running for mayor of Kansas City in 2019, but dropped out of the race when he decided to confront his war scars, rather than hide from them. Now, while currently not running for office, he is helping lead the national expansion of a Kansas City-based group, the Veterans Community Project, which offers transitional housing and support for homeless veterans.

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Jake DeGroot // Wikimedia Commons

#24. South Dakota

- Total veterans: 54,691 (8.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,625 (3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 4,753 (8.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 20,923 (38.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 11,681 (21.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 12,178 (22.3% of veterans)

More than 54,000South Dakota veterans are standing by their brothers and sisters. According to an article in Keloland by Max Hofer, veterans in South Dakota are helping their fellow recently-returned veterans more easily make the transition to civilian life, and avoid common tragedies like homelessness, addiction, and crime. Volunteers of America Dakotas is one of the organizations helping to provide temporary housing for those veterans.

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Palbert01 // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Kansas

- Total veterans: 178,959 (8.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 4,881 (2.7% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 14,424 (8.1% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 60,993 (34.1% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 39,806 (22.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 44,131 (24.7% of veterans)

More than 8% of the Kansas population are veterans, but it’s the work of one man that is helping to give them all a better life. Joshua Kagely, an Army veteran, started Veterans Suicide Awareness, a nonprofit that offers a helpful and open ear to veterans struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. “We’re just here to make sure our veterans are here tomorrow,” Kagely told McKenzi Davis at KSNT. “Thatʼs the biggest way behind it. It doesnʼt matter what the number is. As long as thereʼs still one, that’s too many.”

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Jmar G // Flickr

#22. Tennessee

- Total veterans: 429,585 (8.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 7,702 (1.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 26,569 (6.2% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 153,462 (35.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 96,916 (22.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 96,531 (22.5% of veterans)

In July 2017, Tennessee passed a state law that waived out-of-state tuition and fees for military veterans and their dependents. According to an article from The University of Tennessee Knoxville, the law applies to those living in Tennessee who are enrolled in any of the stateʼs colleges or universities using veteransʼ educational benefits. When the law went into effect, 18 of the 25 veterans paying out-of-state tuition were allowed to switch to in-state tuition.

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A1C John Nieves Camacho // Wikimedia Commons

#21. North Carolina

- Total veterans: 667,035 (8.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 12,846 (1.9% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 37,495 (5.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 224,691 (33.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 167,406 (25.1% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 161,466 (24.2% of veterans)

North Carolina may have more than 660,000 veterans, but when it comes to being a top place for veterans to live, the state still has a way to go. It ranked 21st in the country for veterans in 2018, according to a WalletHub study, which evaluated states on three categories, including economic environment, quality of life, and access to health care. That year, 32,000 North Carolina veterans were unemployed and 48,000 had income below the poverty level.

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Oregon National Guard // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Oregon

- Total veterans: 279,132 (8.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 7,852 (2.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 20,634 (7.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 110,596 (39.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 48,071 (17.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 46,392 (16.6% of veterans)

Nearly 8.5% of Oregon residents are veterans. To help them achieve homeownership, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs announced lower interest rates for veterans in July 2019. According to an article in The News Guard, the Oregon Veteran Home Loan Program provides the states’ veterans with this benefit.

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Sgt. Jonathan Thibault // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Colorado

- Total veterans: 371,081 (8.4% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 7,485 (2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 20,937 (5.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 125,501 (33.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 98,202 (26.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 98,231 (26.5% of veterans)

For Coloradoʼs more than 370,000 veterans, one city in particular was voted as one of the best places in the country for them to settle. That city is Colorado Springs, which, according to Amber Fisherʼs article in Patch, ranked as the 20th city in the nation for veterans, based on employment, economy, quality of life, and health. Denver also made the list at number 20.

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Michael Rivera // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Florida

- Total veterans: 1,439,606 (8.5% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 48,198 (3.3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 125,765 (8.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 520,697 (36.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 302,095 (21% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 264,521 (18.4% of veterans)

The year 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, the day when World War II ended in Europe. Pew Research Center determined that in 2020 there were 300,000 U.S. World War II veterans still alive, most of them in their 90s and older. The largest numbers are in California and Florida, each of which are home to more than 30,000 veterans that war.

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KelseyJ // Shutterstock

#17. New Hampshire

- Total veterans: 93,957 (8.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,252 (2.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 8,643 (9.2% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 35,982 (38.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 18,317 (19.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 14,488 (15.4% of veterans)

New Hampshire is one of the many states across the country getting creative with veteran care. There are more than 93,000 veterans living in the state, but at the veterans center in Manchester, things are getting sweet. The center offers the option to veterans to work as volunteer beekeepers, tending beehives on the grounds. It’s part of a larger national program called Hives for Heroes, reports Deborah Block in an article for VOA News, built on research that beekeeping provides therapeutic benefits.

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Airman 1st Class Charles Welty // U.S. Air Force

#16. Alabama

- Total veterans: 324,612 (8.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 4,511 (1.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 18,513 (5.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 114,539 (35.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 83,928 (25.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 76,638 (23.6% of veterans)

The U.S. Department of Defense has a program for veterans called Troops to Teachers, which helps states recruit top retired military veterans and trains them to be teachers in K-12 classrooms. In July 2019, WHNT News reported that Lt. Col. James Cote was the first troop to make the transition to teacher in Alabama. He accepted a health science teacher position in Montgomery.

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Airman 1st Class William Johnson // U.S. Air Force

#15. Delaware

- Total veterans: 66,896 (8.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,492 (2.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 4,976 (7.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 25,349 (37.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 15,274 (22.8% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 12,053 (18% of veterans)

While many other states are struggling to find a solution for the homeless crisis among veterans, Delaware is among three states that has ended homelessness among veterans. As of 2019, the VA names three states—Delaware, Connecticut, and Virginia—as having succeeded.

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Susilyn // Shutterstock

#14. West Virginia

- Total veterans: 126,473 (8.8% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,806 (2.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 9,167 (7.2% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 50,933 (40.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ’01): 25,346 (20% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 19,690 (15.6% of veterans)

Veterans make up nearly 9% of the population in West Virginia. Fortunately, the state has a senator who speaks on its behalf. In May 2020, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, introduced bipartisan legislation intended to assist rural veterans with transportation to get to and from their medical appointments. According to The Intelligencer, the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2019 is working to expand transportation services and reimbursement for veterans who live in rural areas and need to travel to VA medical facilities and veteran centers.

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yeowatzup // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Washington

- Total veterans: 520,226 (8.9% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 12,507 (2.4% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 29,457 (5.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 185,141 (35.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 129,499 (24.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 124,157 (23.9% of veterans)

There are more than half a million veterans living in the state of Washington. Whatʼs more, the state has some of the countryʼs largest military bases, Navy submarines, and two aircraft carriers, according to a piece by Andrew Sheeler in The News Tribune. Still, according to a survey by WalletHub, the state of Washington continues to be a challenging environment for retired military. Based on economic conditions, quality of life, and health care, Washington ranked number 28 among the 50 states as a place for veterans to live.

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SrA Daniel Hughes // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Nevada

- Total veterans: 211,114 (9% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 4,682 (2.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 13,247 (6.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 76,028 (36% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 46,830 (22.2% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 45,362 (21.5% of veterans)

In the state of Nevada, home to more than 200,000 veterans, one veteran in particular is devoting his life to helping other vets get back on their feet. When David West was released from the Marine Corps, where he served as a platoon sergeant, he wasn’t prepared for the challenges of returning to civilian life. After struggling to find employment, and even a bout with homelessness, West now is Nevada Countyʼs veterans services officer. According to John Orona of The Union, West was able to provide more than $5.3 million in federal benefits to veterans in his first year. Today veterans come from all over the country just to seek his help in getting back on their feet.

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Kelly White // Air Force

#11. Oklahoma

- Total veterans: 266,513 (9% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 6,866 (2.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 17,556 (6.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 98,743 (37% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 61,269 (23% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 63,647 (23.9% of veterans)

In 2019, Veteranʼs United Home Loans released its annual “Best Cities for Veteran Homebuyers” study, comparing the top 100 cities in the United States for quality of life for veterans. The more than 266,000 veterans in Oklahoma may be interested to know that Oklahoma City ranked in the top five as one of the best places for veteran homebuyers. The KFOR-TV story reports that Oklahoma City scored well in monthly income spent on mortgage or rent, unemployment rates, median veteran income, and projected veteran population growth.

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TwinsofSedona // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Arizona

- Total veterans: 496,239 (9% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 11,140 (2.2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 36,138 (7.3% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 190,010 (38.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 103,618 (20.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 100,002 (20.2% of veterans)

The Arizona Coalition for Military Families in 2017 launched the Be Connected program, designed to provide help to service members, their families, and veterans with everything from housing to employment. Veterans in Arizona have three times higher risks of depression, PTSD, and suicide than non-veterans.

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AllenS // Wikimedia Commons

#9. New Mexico

- Total veterans: 146,147 (9.1% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 3,826 (2.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 8,213 (5.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 57,060 (39% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 31,483 (21.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 33,962 (23.2% of veterans)

While conditions for veterans across many cities in the United States are worsening for veterans, cities in New Mexico are showing significant signs of improvement. Since 2017, Santa Fe has operated at a “functional zero” level, which means it is able to find housing for any homeless veteran within 90 days. There are more than 146,000 veterans living in New Mexico, who make up more than 9% of the population.

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SSgt Rasheen Douglas // Wikimedia Commons

#8. South Carolina

- Total veterans: 363,194 (9.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 7,433 (2% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 21,704 (6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 136,178 (37.5% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 86,236 (23.7% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 77,043 (21.2% of veterans)

South Carolina has more than 363,000 veterans, and one of the best cities within the state for veterans to live is Sumter, where veterans are 11% of the population. Sumter is also home to the Shaw Air Force Base, and has around 5,000 active duty personnel in that location.

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Brent Stirton/Exclusive by Getty Images

#7. Idaho

- Total veterans: 121,327 (9.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,818 (2.3% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 8,091 (6.7% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 46,036 (37.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 25,989 (21.4% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 24,245 (20% of veterans)

Idahoʼs capital Boise is coming at the issue of veteran homelessness head-on. According to Katie Kloppenburg from Idaho News 6, Boise broke ground on a new affordable housing complex for veterans in July 2019. The 27-unit complex also has classrooms, a fitness room, and mental health counseling. Known as Valor Point, the project is funded through low-income housing tax credits. The national average of veteran homelessness is 11%. Ada County, home to Boise, exceeds it at 14%.

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Staff Sgt. Jason Fudge // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Hawaii

- Total veterans: 102,915 (9.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 2,899 (2.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 6,015 (5.8% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 33,908 (32.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 21,588 (21% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 34,911 (33.9% of veterans)

Hawaii has one of the highest percentages of veterans, with 9.6% of the population having served in the military. In 2018, Hawaii Business magazine profiled Hawaiiʼs veterans to find that Hawaii has a large percentage of non-white veterans. According to 2014 numbers compiled by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 30.2% of Hawaiiʼs veterans are Asian, and 6.5% are also Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Only 40.5% of Hawaiiʼs veterans are white, which is the second lowest percentage in the country.

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Linda Hosek // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Maine

- Total veterans: 105,385 (9.7% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 3,051 (2.9% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 7,985 (7.6% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 41,119 (39% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 19,017 (18% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 15,403 (14.6% of veterans)

Maine is home to quite a few veterans per capita, with 9.7% of the population being retired military personnel. The state also supports a nonprofit organization for veterans known as Vet to Vet Maine, a community that offers support, companionship, and a link to services for Maine veterans. Diane Atwood writes in the Bangor Daily News that the program matches veterans with other veterans so that they can combat loneliness, feeling misunderstood, and a variety of other issues, simply by tapping into a network of those who already understand what itʼs like to be a veteran in the United States.

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Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#4. Montana

- Total veterans: 84,392 (10.2% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 1,436 (1.7% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 5,721 (6.8% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 32,940 (39% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug.ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 16,555 (19.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 17,989 (21.3% of veterans)

One of the biggest draws for veterans to Montana for retirement is the sheer amount of space for peace and quiet. At least, thatʼs what Dan McGuinness tells CNN. The article by Jeremy Harlan and Kim Berryman discusses that more than a third of Montanaʼs veteran population served after 9/11, and the state has a high risk of veteran suicide. Still, many in Montana do not want typical therapy or counseling options. Instead they turn to programs like Warriors & Quiet Waters, a nonprofit group based in Bozeman that helps veterans combat daily emotional pain and anxiety through outdoor experiences.

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Matt Bilden // U.S. Air Force

#3. Wyoming

- Total veterans: 45,252 (10.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 874 (1.9% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 2,316 (5.1% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 17,919 (39.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 9,308 (20.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 10,543 (23.3% of veterans)

In June 2019, a new Congressional act went into effect, making it easier for more than 45,000 Wyoming veterans to access health care providers of their choice. The Mission Act replaced the Choice Act of 2014, which allowed veterans to seek primary and mental health care from a local provider, rather than the VA if they lived outside a 40-mile radius from VA centers, or could not schedule an appointment at the VA within 30 days. The Mission Act amends the Choice Act by reducing standards to a wait time of 20 or more days or a drive of more than 30 minutes.

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U.S. Navy/Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Brian Stueber // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Virginia

- Total veterans: 670,273 (10.3% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 10,544 (1.6% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 33,281 (5% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 198,524 (29.6% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90-Aug. ʼ01): 222,986 (33.3% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 221,696 (33.1% of veterans)

There's good news for the more than 670,000 veterans that currently live in the state of Virginia. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in a December 2019 article by James Scott Baron, by 2025 Virginia will have the largest veterans health care center in the nation. Located in Fredericksburg, the new facility will have everything from audiology and optometry to prosthetics, occupational and physical therapy, mental health, and more. Today the largest veterans health care center is in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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An Errant Knight // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Alaska

- Total veterans: 67,635 (12.6% of population 18 or older)
--- World War II: 571 (0.8% of veterans)
--- Korean War: 2,269 (3.4% of veterans)
--- Vietnam War: 20,885 (30.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 18,890 (27.9% of veterans)
--- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 25,373 (37.5% of veterans)

Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation. About 12.6% of Alaska is made up of veterans. But while the majority of U.S. states have a high veteran population from the Vietnam War, Alaska is one of three whose population is composed mostly of veterans from the Gulf War. Hawaii and Virginia are the other two states. According to USA Today, in an article by Thomas C. Frohlich, 25.7% of veterans in Alaska live with a disability, which is the sixth lowest in the nation. More than 75% of Alaskaʼs veteran population participates in the labor force, and there are less than 150 homeless veterans in the state.

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