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Middle of the Pack (pt. 2 of 2)

Back in December I wrote a blog that detailed our region’s population of military veterans (feel free to catch Pt. 1 here if you missed) – getting into demographic aspects of population, age and eras of service, through levels of education and skill sets.

The data clearly showed several things:

  • Owing to the large installations within NC, we do have a larger than average veteran population within our region when compared to national percentages.

  • Veterans tend to skew older age-wise than the typical civilian population, but our region was slightly atypical for veteran populations with a majority (56%) of our veterans aged 65 or older.

  • Our region’s veterans are contributing economically – showing significantly higher proportions of veterans actively in the workforce and often bringing a higher level of education to their civilian careers and our community.

As HKY4Vets seeks to impact these very numbers positively – more veterans living here after their service, greater education/technical backgrounds available to growing companies in our community, and growing local “ranks “among more recent eras of service (2000 - today) – we pay attention to reports like the one recently released by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) comparing the various veterans’ benefits offered state by state (find the report here).

On sheer quantity of benefits for military veterans to consider remaining or relocating to North Carolina – we come out middle of the pack.

Now, understand “there is considerable variation in number of benefits that each [state] offered, ranging from a low of eight in the District of Columbia to a high of 60 in Illinois, with an average of 36 benefits offered. There is substantial variation in size, scope, and eligibility criteria of each benefit, with benefits ranging from Arkansas’ $10.50 discount on a lifetime state fishing license to South Dakota’s $100,000 property tax exemption for totally disabled veterans” (CNAS report).

It is also important to remember that there seems to be an inverse relationship between a state’s veteran population and level of benefits provided. Benefits cost money – for example, to enact a new veteran income tax credit in a state with a low veteran population obviously will have less of an impact on state tax coffers than a place like NC, again with our larger than average veteran population.

So, sheer volume of benefits may not be the ultimate measure of the “best place for military veterans” – but it is at least viable to consider. And really, people like scoreboards – I am going to always assume a score of 52 (New York's # of benefits) is bigger and better than 32 (North Carolina's # of benefits), regardless of other factors at play.

Do not mistake our intent here - this blog is not necessarily an indictment of North Carolina or to imply we care any less for our nation’s Armed Forces during or after their military service. But in times where many NC communities are trying to grow their populations and companies of all sizes are clamoring for top-level talent with high-character, we need to own it - WE HAVE AREAS RIPE FOR IMPROVEMENT, like:

  • NC does offer some exemption ($4,000 – single; $8,000 – joint or full to veterans with service prior to 1989), but North Carolina is one of only 20 states that does tax military retiree income at some level. Citing a recent study from Clemson University on this very benefit, an op-ed in the January/February 2020 Tarheel Guardsman (h/t to HKY4Vets Steering Committee Member, Cary Bowman) estimates that "with even only a 2.5% increase in military retirees (and despite the loss of income tax revenue), the study predicts a net gain to state revenues within the 2nd year following full retirement tax exemption" (Tarheel Guardsman). It also estimates an increase from this proven labor pool of over 2,000 individuals within two years and a direct economic contribution of $55 million (just from military pensions) increase to the annual economy...not even counting indirect or induced impacts from spending those pension dollars (impact jumps to $79 million then).

  • NC currently does not offer tax-credits to private businesses that hire veterans. In addition to the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, more than a quarter of states offer anywhere from $1,000 up to $10,000 to businesses per veteran hire. Think of how that further multiplies the benefit to a company hiring a veteran - not only do they have top technical skills and high levels of soft skills, I get a $10,000 tax credit for hiring this military veteran too? Triple bonus!

  • In NC, veterans, dependents/survivors that meet certain conditions may qualify for North Carolina in-state tuition rates (at the world-class UNC System by the way), without meeting the usual civilian residency requirements (12 months). And NC is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program which can offer additional tuition assistance, but there are options out there like the Wisconsin GI Bill (yes, in addition to the federal) that forgives full tuition and segregated fees for eligible veterans and their dependents for up to eight semesters or 128 credits (4 years worth basically!) at any University of Wisconsin System or Wisconsin Technical College System school​.

Each of these factors are building blocks – building blocks in the case as to not only how we treat and respect the sacrifice of our Armed Forces, but ultimately where they call “home” after their service. And these factors do matter – simply ask any Service Member who has transitioned out in the last 5-10 years.

As to our [HKY4Vets] role in this BIG, statewide issue – being but only a small blip in a grand landscape. We only control, what we CAN control.

We CAN control…..

  • our level of awareness of how our community and state benefits from hiring military and military spouse talent.

  • our level of advocacy for highlighting our strengths but also acknowledging our areas ripe for strengthening (like the list above).

  • how we utilize last month’s demographic data and the CNAS report to help define our work for 2020 and amplify our impact.

To you, the reader, we thank you for sticking with us in this blog and in last month's. We all can play a role in making this better, but it must start first with a little bit of awareness and education.

* All maps & charts taken from CNAS report.


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