Less-than-stellar ranking stuns Tucson veterans

Less-than-stellar ranking stuns Tucson veterans
Veterans give their opinion on new poll ranking Tucson poor in livability for veterans. (Source: Tucson News Now)
Veterans give their opinion on new poll ranking Tucson poor in livability for veterans. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The inside of Catalina VFW Post 4903, near Speedway Boulevard and Beverly Avenue, has become a safe, welcoming space for veterans to gather.

Navy Veteran Elvin Propst and Army Veteran Duke Snyder felt comfortable enough to sit down and give their ringing endorsements of why they love Tucson - on categories like its affordability.

"We've got $2.30 gas in Tucson, Arizona. The rest of the country," Snyder said with a shrug.

"We've got $2 beers here at the VFW," Propst said with a laugh.

But with all the positives in southern Arizona - yes, even beer prices - a recent survey gave Tucson a less-than-satisfactory review.

A recent poll from WalletHub created a list of the best and worst cities for veterans to live in.

Out of the largest 100 cities in the U.S., seven Arizona cities were chosen and ranked, with Tucson coming in at #61.

It was a shocking result for Propst and Snyder.

The poll considered factors from livability and veteran-friendliness to military skill-related jobs.

"Tucson always, to me, has really endeared Veterans in business. And they have always invited Veterans to come into their businesses," said Snyder, who served in the Army from 1968-1971.

The ranking wasn't kind to the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS), and Arizona's medical care for veterans.

In the WalletHub poll under the 'Health Rank' the top 23 best cities for healthcare were either in California or Florida.

The highest ranked Arizona cities in that category were Scottsdale, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Glendale. All five were ranked 56th best.

"Unfortunately, we are lacking in terms of enough care for everyone - not only Veterans. Definitely, when you compare Arizona to California, Florida, and the east coast, we are lagging because of a shortage of physicians," said Dr. Francisco Rivera Pabon, the SAVAHCS Chief of Primary Care.

Dr. Rivera knows the challenges. He chalked it up to salaries, saying Arizona's cities sometimes can't compete with some coastal cities.

Tucson was rated 66th-best in the 'Health Rank.'

"Our cost of living in Arizona is quite low. Of course, when you compare it to places like California or Florida, wages will tend to be higher because of the cost of living," Dr. Rivera said.

The low rating is something he'd like to change.

"If I had a magic wand: Definitely, staffing would be the first thing. Not only for physicians but all the ancillary staff that we need," he said. "I would definitely say that if we had the necessary staffing in all the VA facilities throughout Arizona, we would definitely be number one - if not on the top 5."

That could make the difference in Tucson's score. But it makes no difference to Snyder.

"If I was going to die some place, that appreciates veterans, it would be Tucson, Arizona," he said. "They're going to bury me in this desert. I love this place."

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