(WIS) - There's a new name for South Carolina, and that's fifth friendliest in the country for military retirees, according to a new study just released by WalletHub. The Palmetto State falls behind only Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Alabama. That ranking is largely based on jobs and taxes.
With May being Military Appreciation Month and significant military pension changes taking effect this year, the personal-finance site released its report on 2018's Best & Worst States for Military Retirees ahead of Memorial Day.
WIS-TV spoke with veterans who praised their home state for the new accolade but said there is one change they'd like to see.
Jim Fisher solemnly saluted the names carved into stone on Columbia's Memorial Garden Vietnam wall. Those names belong to people who sacrificed their lives, fighting in the Vietnam War in which he also served.
On a map of Vietnam, the retired Army man can still point to the place he was shot, but he has no regrets on serving or making South Carolina his home. Fisher has felt nothing but welcome since he came to be stationed at Fort Jackson in the sixties.
"Right outside the gate there on Jackson Boulevard, they had this big billboard and it said welcome…home," Fisher said. "It kind of struck a real soft note to me that, hey, this is pretty good."
According to WalletHub, South Carolina places first in percentage of businesses owned by veterans. However, the income tax is what hurt its ranking. Veterans' pensions are not totally exempt. There are benefits being phased in, under one state law. Veterans older than 65 can deduct will be able to deduct $30,000, by 2020.
"There are certainly states that do not tax military pension at all, and I think that would make South Carolina even more lucrative in terms of, you know, being a good idea for these retirees to actually go to," WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez explained.
The Chamber of Commerce loves the study, too.
"Well, one, it says we appreciate your service to our country and what they've put on hold for us. That's a huge incentive for folks that want to, that need to, are leaving the military and are looking for a state or community to call home," Columbia Chamber of Commerce CEO Carl Blackstone said.
Governor Henry McMaster has called for all veterans' pension to be exempt from income tax; but that hasn't been written into the state budget for next year, yet.
Fisher is fond of the idea. "Every dollar counts to help meet our needs," he added.
The study compared 50 states and the District of Columbia across 27 key indicators of retirement-friendliness toward veterans. Experts considered multiple factors including job opportunities for veterans, housing affordability and quality of VA hospitals.
South Carolina ranked number 5 out of 10 in the 'best' category. Other top states for Veterans included Florida, Virginia, and Alabama while lowest ranking states included Oregon, Mexico, and New York.
3. New Hampshire
5. South Carolina
7. South Dakota
44. Rhode Island
45. New Jersey
46. New York
47. New Mexico
51. District of Columbia