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For veterans, golden years are best in Waco

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK
  • Star Tribune
  • September 23, 2011 - 5:03 PM

Earlier this week, the Star Tribune reported on the dismal state of affairs for Minnesota's unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Minnesota ranks among the worst in the nation for jobs for returning modern-day vets.

Anyone interested in the best place to retire for members of the military might be a little surprised. USAA, the financial services company for members of the military and their families, and the website Military.com did the math. The winner is: Waco, Texas.

In fact, cities in Texas make up four of the top 10 cities in the survey, probably because Texas is a state that does not tax federal pensions. The two groups looked at proximity to a military base, amenities at the bases, closeness to a Veterans Affairs hospital and the state's polices on taxing pensions.

For Waco-ites, Fort Hood is within an hour's drive and offers extensive commissaries and base exchanges for anyone with a DOD retiree card. In addition, a VA medical center is located in Waco, as is Baylor University.

Besides Waco, Austin (3), College Station (4), and San Angelo (6) are the Texas cities in the top 10. Harrisburg (5) and Pittsburgh (8) represent the Keystone State. Oklahoma City (2) is the only city in the top 10 in a state that does tax federal pensions (federal pensions received while you are a nonresident are not taxed by Minnesota). New Orleans (9) and Syracuse, N.Y. (10) complete the list with Madison, Wis. (7), the closest city to Minnesota.

Access to beer and snowmobiles are not mentioned for Madison, but low unemployment, a healthy lifestyle, and recreation and cultural opportunities are. While there is a VA medical center nearby, Madison gets lower marks because retirees need to travel 90 miles to Fort McCoy in Sparta to shop at their commissary and exchange.

In case you are wondering, we asked USAA if there was a bottom 10 list and if Minnesota was on it. They politely said they are not releasing that information.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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