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California has more troops than any state, but it’s too expensive for veterans to retire

California’s high cost of living makes it a difficult place for retired military service members to settle down, according to an annual report by financial services website WalletHub.

California — home to the largest number of active-duty troops in the nation — fares poorly in the survey when it comes to affordable housing, homelessness and the proportion of of businesses in the state that are owned by veterans.

The study broke down all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., in terms of economic environment (including tax friendliness and job opportunities), quality of life (including share of veterans and number of homeless vets), and health care (including the number of VA hospitals).

Though California rated middle of the pack (No. 21) for overall treatment of retired military, it ranked among the worst for economic conditions (No. 46).

The survey found that while California has one of the smallest veteran populations per capita (No. 48), the Golden State is tied with several others for the highest percentage of homeless veterans.

Nearly a quarter of America’s homeless veterans live in California, according to a survey conducted in 2012 by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.

Some of that can be contributed to the fact that California was found to be worst in the nation, behind all other states and the nation’s capital, for housing affordability.

California also has one of the lowest percentages of veteran-owned businesses, ranking at No. 49.

Still, the Golden State didn’t do poorly in all categories.

It rated No. 9 for overall quality of life and No. 14 for health care, and California is third in the nation for the number of VA health facilities per number of vets.

So, should retired military members consider California as their forever home?

“In looking at states that tax military retirement, TRICARE eligible facilities, veteran friendly communities and employment opportunities, one must consider all of these in their decision making,” said Mike Brown, director of the Office of Veterans and Military Service Members at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, in a statement to WalletHub.

When it comes to choosing a place to retire, retired Lt. Col. Michael C. Wise told WalletHub that, “Cities and states that have large military bases in their communities are often recommended to be the best places to retire as the entire community supports the military.”

California has several of the military’s largest bases, including the Marines’ Camp Pendleton and the complex of Navy ports and air bases in and around San Diego.

About 280,000 military service members and other Defense Department employees are stationed in California, according to the Defense Department. Virginia, with 250,000 troops and Defense Department employees, has the second highest number of military employees among all states.

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