Best and Worst Cities for Veterans Health Care
We analyzed 100 of the nation’s largest cities to determine which were the best for veterans health care. Our analysis examined the following data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Veterans Affairs:
- Ratio of veterans to total population
- Veteran poverty rates
- VA hospital quality
- VA general expenditures
- VA health care spending
10 Best Cities
1. Chula Vista, CA
Chula Vista ranks No. 1 for veterans health care. Home to 16,125 veterans – nearly 6% of the population – the city is great for those who want to belong to a veteran community. Chula Vista is among the 10 cities with the lowest veteran poverty rate, at just 4.6%, and cares about investing in its veteran population. It currently ranks among the top five cities in VA spending per veteran.
2. Cleveland, OH
Cleveland comes in second place. The North Coast makes up for a relatively high poverty rate by investing in its population of nearly 20,000 veterans. It’s home to a five-star VA hospital and allocates VA spending of $194.69 per veteran, the second highest budget in the nation. The Cleveland VA has also made significant efforts to connect homeless veterans to housing vouchers and VA benefits.
3. North Las Vegas, NV
North Las Vegas shines in the areas of veteran population and low poverty rates. With 16,731 veterans – nearly 7% of the population – the rate of poverty is just 5.7%. The city offers a variety of resources, including nine veterans organizations, according to Yelp .
4. St. Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg is home to more than 20,000 veterans and a VA budget that exceeds $1 million. The medical care budget is over $400,000, which means $22.67 is allocated per veteran. The city’s veteran poverty rate is 8.8%, which is lower than the city’s overall poverty rate of 15.9%.
5. Santa Ana, CA
Santa Ana is located nearly 100 miles up the coast from Chula Vista. The Santa Ana VA budgets $156.10 per veteran and spends $54.11 in medical care for each veteran, which is higher than all other cities in the top 10.
6. Chandler, AZ
Chandler has one of the lowest veteran poverty rates at just 4.4%. Even though the city’s VA hospital star rating isn’t high, their medical care spending is the fifth highest, at $60.10 per veteran. With hospital improvements, Chandler could become an even stronger hub for veterans health care.
7. Pittsburgh, PA
The Steel City lands in the top ten cities for veterans health care because of its four-star VA hospital rating and high per-veteran medical care budget. Veterans are almost 6% of the population, making it a great spot for former service members.
8. Garland, TX
While a relatively small city, Garland knows how to care for its veterans. With a veteran poverty rate of just 4.9% and relatively high per-veteran VA medical care budgets, Garland is a city where the well-being of veterans isn’t ignored.
9. Winston-Salem, NC
Winston-Salem excels in VA hospital quality, being one of the few cities to earn a five-star rating. The veteran poverty rate is 9.3%, which is significantly lower than the city’s general poverty rate of 23.3%.
10. Cincinnati, OH
Like Cleveland, Cincinnati makes up for higher poverty rates by ensuring high-quality care for its 12,000 veterans. The city has earned a five-star VA hospital rating and is in the top third for per-veteran VA spending.
10 Worst Cities
1. Wichita, KA
Wichita ranks as the worst city for veterans health care, largely because veterans make up just 0.03% of the city’s population. The veteran poverty rate is 15.1%, the eighth highest in the nation, and VA expenditures are among the 10 lowest cities. It also has the lowest percentage of veterans compared to any other city analyzed.
2. Laredo, TX
Less than 2% of Laredo’s population are veterans. On a five-star rating, its VA hospitals earned two stars. Resources for veterans may be sparse. And according to Yelp , there is only one veterans organization near the city.
3. Houston, TX
Houston’s local per-veteran VA budget is the lowest of all the cities analyzed, at $0.21 per veteran and $0.07 in medical spending. Considering that veterans make up 3% of the population, it’s clear the Bayou City could benefit from VA budget increases.
4. Richmond, VA
Those looking for a strong veteran community may not find one in Richmond. The city has a population of over 228,000, yet only 0.3% – just over 600 – are veterans. Richmond also has the highest veteran poverty rate, a staggering 24.3%, of all the cities analyzed.
5. New York City, NY
New York City has the second highest number of veterans – over 163,000 – however, this only accounts for 2% of the city’s large population. VA expenditures don’t adequately reflect the high number of veterans, with total medical care spending at just $0.97 per veteran.
6. Jersey City, NJ
Less than two out of 100 residents of Jersey City are veterans – and despite having the lowest veteran poverty rate of the nation, the city’s VA hospitals earned only two stars. The lack of veterans and relatively poor quality of VA hospitals earned this city a spot in the bottom 10.
7. Kansas City, MO
Kansas City ranks among the 10 cities with the lowest VA spending, at just $1.71 per veteran and just $0.54 in medical spending. With a VA hospital rating of just two out of five, the city could greatly improve by further investing in their veterans.
8. Atlanta, GA
Atlanta is among the few cities that earned just one out of five stars for VA hospital quality. This, combined with a veteran poverty rate of 12.7% and relatively low per-veteran VA spending, is what landed Atlanta in the bottom 10.
9. Denver, CO
Denver ranks in the bottom half of all factors analyzed, with the exception of VA spending. The combination of a lower-than-average percent of the population who are veterans (4.1%), veteran poverty rate (9.2%) and VA hospital quality (two out of five stars) puts Denver among the worst cities.
10. Norfolk, VA
Norfolk has a strong veteran population at 11%. However, it ranks in the bottom third for poverty, with a 10.8% veteran poverty rate. The city’s VA hospital star rating is a mere two out of five and the VA budgets just $2.11 per veteran in medical care spending.
Cities with the Highest-Quality VA Hospitals
Eighteen out of 146 VA hospitals across the nation were awarded a five-star rating according to the 2018 ranking from the Veterans Health Administration . Below are the four included in the top 100 largest U.S. cities analyzed in this study.
According to the VA, hospitals were ranked based on the following factors:
- Access to care
- Quality of mental health care
- Employee perception of the organization
- Nursing turnover
Cities with the Largest Veteran Population and Lowest Poverty Rates
An important facet of returning to civilian life is finding a community of other veterans and achieving a sense of belonging. To determine which cities have the best potential for strong veteran communities, we calculated the ratio of veterans to the general population based on the latest U.S. census data.
Veterans are almost 40% of the population of Riverside, California, making the city home to more veterans than any other U.S. city analyzed in our study. The Golden State city is the only community in California to end veteran homelessness, which may be the reason for its popularity among veterans.
While having a large veteran population is an important part of fostering a healthy veteran community, it’s only one piece of the equation. It’s also important to achieve a low poverty rate to ensure high quality of life. According to 2017 VA data, veterans are less likely to live in poverty than nonveterans, but there’s still room for improvement.
The following cities have the highest and lowest veteran poverty rates. Newark, New Jersey, has the lowest veteran poverty rate at 1.5%, while Richmond, Virginia, has the highest at 24.3%.
The medical needs of veterans – both mental and physical – are unlike those of civilians. Due to higher susceptibility to certain cancers, including mesothelioma, affordable and accessible health care for veterans is imperative. If you’re a veteran and suspect you may have been exposed to asbestos during your service, we can help you qualify for VA benefits and appeal denied claims with our free VA claims assistance.
In order to determine the best U.S. cities for veterans health care, we compared a sample of the top 100 most populated U.S. cities. We rated each city on a weighted scale consisting of the following factors:
VA expenditures – 40 points
Total VA expenditures – 20 points
Total VA medical care spending – 20 points
Veteran population – 30 points
Veteran poverty rate – 15 points
Ratio of veterans to total population – 15 points
Veterans Health Administration hospital star rating – 30 points
Our samples excluded multiple cities within the same immediately surrounding metro area. For VA expenditures and VA medical care spending, data was pulled from the county in which the city is located. For hospital rating, data was pulled from the location in which the city’s VA health care system is located. Total VA expenditures were divided by veteran population for a per-veteran budget.