A couple days ago I got a call from the FBU department of the U.S. Embassy in Panama City. An American Citizen, living in Chiriquí had lost his social security benefits because he had not responded to a notice requesting him to verify he was still alive.
The Embassy asked if I could meet with him, verify he was the one on his passport. I then needed to have him fill out a required form and send the form and a copy of his passport to the Embassy. I met with him the other morning. He was a little desperate as he had missed two social security payments. He said his Panamanian wife was very nervous. I told him that the Embassy would have the forms within the hour. He seemed relieved.
Yesterday morning I received a call from him. He said his wife was concerned about possibly receiving less money. I told him I didn’t work for the agency, but if the only problem was the lack of proof that he was alive, his missing payments would be paid and the regular payments would be the same as before.
Then he clarified that she was concerned about how much money she would get if he died. I said he really needed to talk to the Social Security office, but there were strict rules on if a spouse would get benefits from a death and how much the benefits would be.
I know, in general, the marriage has to have been at least 10 years and the person filing for benefits must be at least 62 years of age. At least that is my understanding. I don’t know all of the other restrictions that apply.
However, his wife asking this question raised a big red flag in my mind. He had been married for 3 years. I hope he explains the rules to her and that may mean she will insure he is alive for another 7 years.
He was suffering some health problems and I am not sure that the highest concern on his wife’s mind was his health. I rather think it was her income should he die.
I have posted this warning before. If you are a single man, over the age of 60 and you come to Panama and notice that you are now a chick magnet, beware. It is not the pheromones in the air, it is the dollar signs. Many Panamanians have heard if they marry a U.S. citizen they will be eligible to receive a U.S. Social Security benefit.
I hope I am wrong about this red flag, but my gut tells me I am not.