This is the first post I will do related to the meetings I have attended over the last two days with the American Citizens Services Unit in the US Embassy in Panama City. I am going to cover a single issue here because I do not want it to get lost in a post about many other things.
This is TOO important. Read the following carefully and multiple times if necessary.
ALL US Citizens living outside the United States, that receive checks from the Social Security Administration, need to read this and understand this! This relates to validating “Proof of Life” to insure that checks you depend on monthly do not get cutoff.
Of all the discussions and presentations that were given, this one probably had the biggest impact. Let me explain the precess as I understand it.
On a Biennial basis, the US Social Security Administration mails out a form to be completed by recipients of payments made by SSA. When a recipient lives outside the US, the form will only be mailed to an acceptable address.
Form GN 02401.080 specifies the policy for when a US address is allowed and when it is not as well as what US addresses maybe allowed.
Anyone that is living in Panama and using a PMB PMA, PTY or other mail-forwarding address does not have an acceptable address. I repeat, if this is the address you have on file with SSA, you will be losing your payments unless you take positive action.
It does not matter if the money is being received in a US banking institution or a Panama banking institution.
By the way, if you are a permanent resident of Panama and use a friend or relative’s address in the US as your address in this matter, you are not compliant.
Let me give you the schedule these letters will be mailed.
If your social security number ends in 00 through 49, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of even numbered years.
If your social security number ends in 50 through 99, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of odd numbered years.
The letters for 2013 will be mailed out between May and June (this month and next month). If you fall in the odd numbered years and have not received your letter by August, you have a problem.
The responses to those letters will need to be received by the SSA. If they are not received, the checks (or direct deposits) will be stopped! This usually catches the recipients by surprise and they wind up having to contact the Federal Benefits Unit in the US Embassy in Panama City to get the check flow turned back on. This is not instantaneous and many living in Panama find themselves with financial problems. No money will be lost, but you may be without money till the problem is solved.
So what do you need to do?
1. The obvious answer is to have a mailing address in Panama. It can be general delivery or PO Box, but it must be in the country where you reside.
As all of us that live here know, General Delivery and even PO Boxes do not insure that you will receive the letter in Panama. That is why you need to mark your calendar for August and if no letter has been received, then you need to contact the FBU in Panama City.
2. If you have a noncompliant US mailing address, you can complete Form SSA-21. Form SSA-21 is going to ask for a mailing address. Then you need to send it to the FBU in Panama City and they will notify SSA of your new address and your payments will continue.
I felt the meetings over the last two days were very worthwhile and when my mind clears, I will post more. However, in the interest of getting this information out as quick as possible, I elected to post it as a stand alone topic.
If you have friends that are US citizens that are permanent residents outside the US and receive SSA benefits, you may want to forward them this information.
Good luck and may the force be with you.
For more information on the Foreign Enforcement Program which serves as a proof of life, please refer to the following link: http://panama.usembassy.gov/ssai.html .
For additional information on changing your mailing address from a US address to a local address, please refer to the following link: http://panama.usembassy.gov/ssae.html