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The 10 best cities for veterans to live and work

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that nearly 200,000 service members leave the military every year. For many of them, the transition back to civilian life can be difficult.

While 91% of veterans say the military did a good job preparing them for life in the service, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, just over half say the experience prepared them to return to civilian life. But location can play a major role in the available career opportunities, quality of life and sense of community that can ease the transition.

SmartAsset, a personal finance company, analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau to find out where veterans are thriving most after returning home. The ranking takes into account six metrics: Number of residents who are veterans, veteran unemployment rate, veteran labor force participation rate, veteran poverty rate, median veteran income and rent as a percentage of income for veterans.

The state of Virginia, which is home to the Department of Defense headquarters, made a strong showing with three Virginia cities taking the top spots: Chesapeake, Arlington and Virginia Beach.

Chesapeake took the top spot due to its above-average share of veteran residents participating in the labor force. Veterans there earn a median annual income of nearly $57,000, and they can generally keep their housing costs to a quarter of their earnings.

Veterans in Arlington earn a median salary of nearly $96,000 per year, the highest income within the ranking. Meanwhile, veterans make up 18% of residents in Virginia Beach, meaning that those returning home have a strong community for support during the transition.

On a national level, 18.2 million veterans make up just over 7% of the U.S. population 18 years and over. Outside of Virginia, the best cities for veterans are concentrated in the Midwest, South, West and as far out as Alaska.

Here are the top 10 best cities for veterans to live and work:

10. Wichita, Kansas

Share of residents who are veterans: 8%

Veteran unemployment rate: 2.5%

Veteran poverty rate: 3.9%

Veteran median income: $37,608

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 25.1%

8. Arlington, Texas (tie)

Share of residents who are veterans: 7%

Veteran unemployment rate: 2.4%

Veteran poverty rate: 6.3%

Veteran median income: $44,525

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 26.7%

8. Anchorage, Alaska (tie)

Share of residents who are veterans: 12%

Veteran unemployment rate: 7.3%

Veteran poverty rate: 3.9%

Veteran median income: $55,195

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 28.1%

7. Fort Worth, Texas

Share of residents who are veterans: 7%

Veteran unemployment rate: 6.7%

Veteran poverty rate: 4.8%

Veteran median income: $50,094

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 23.8%

6. Gilbert, Arizona

Share of residents who are veterans: 6%

Veteran unemployment rate: 0.8%

Veteran poverty rate: 4.8%

Veteran median income: $52,790

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 31.5%

5. Lincoln, Nebraska

Share of residents who are veterans: 6%

Veteran unemployment rate: 0.9%

Veteran poverty rate: 7.9%

Veteran median income: $44,058

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 22.3%

4. North Las Vegas, Nevada

Share of residents who are veterans: 9%

Veteran unemployment rate: 3.7%

Veteran poverty rate: 3.6%

Veteran median income: $46,721

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 29.5%

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Share of residents who are veterans: 18%

Veteran unemployment rate: 3.0%

Veteran poverty rate: 3.4%

Veteran median income: $55,796

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 28.4%

2. Arlington, Virginia

Share of residents who are veterans: 7%

Veteran unemployment rate: 2.2%

Veteran poverty rate: 2.2%

Veteran median income: $95,838

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 23.5%

1. Chesapeake, Virginia

Share of residents who are veterans: 15%

Veteran unemployment rate: 2.0%

Veteran poverty rate: 2.7%

Veteran median income: $56,907

Housing costs as a percentage of veteran income: 25.7%

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