Proof of Life Followup

I had many emails and questions that some people chose to not enter on the POL blog post. I am going to cover some of them here.

One question I received was if the Railroad Retirement and Veterans’s Administration Agency also had Proof of Life qualifications.

Here was the answer I received for that;

“Each agency has they own proof of life system, but none of the agencies ever have the amount of people suspended or problems for non receipt of a survey or proof of life as the SSA.   Besides the fact that the SSA does not only suspend because of the proof of life, they also suspend because of address issues (living overseas and using a US address).”

I also received more clarifying information as to why the POL would be different for those of us that retire here as opposed to those that live in the US.

One of the big differences between here in Panama and the US is that in the US deaths almost always are reported through the government by law, and so the process is generally self-policing as far as proof-of-life.  Here, that is not the case, and I am sure that there any number of US Citizens/Panamanian Residents here that die and are not reported to the US Embassy, no official death certificates are issued and people keep collecting benefits until they get caught and have to pay it back.  The US Embassy in Panama City always notifies the Vital Records sections of the states where people were born of the death certificate and send a scan to them.

Again, let me make this perfectly clear. I am not trying to tell anyone what to do. I am only providing information to anyone that is a US citizen and a permanent resident in Panama. There are guidelines issued by the US Government requiring notification when a US citizen lives outside the US for more than 3 months a year. I published them in the Proof of Life post.

I know many want to “fly under the radar”. Every year there is more communications between the Panamanian government and the US Government. It is not unreasonable to believe that information is shared about new pensionados from the US to Panama.

If you happen to get a retirement income from a US agency, it makes sense to comply with the regulations. Now if the SSA check is not a big deal to you and you can wait a couple months without having it, why worry? I can’t do that, so I will believe what I read and have been told.

I personally like Susan’s approach about just sending your information into the SSA every year and not waiting or depending on getting a letter. You have now taken control of the situation and removed control from a faulty mail system and other unknown problems that may arise.

7 thoughts on “Proof of Life Followup

  1. So…what address format have Panama retirees/expats learned will work for the IRS and SSA?

    The IRS does not like PO. Box XXXX, PTY-XXXX. They exclude the PTY-XXXX for me in their addressing system. Accordingly, I have received mail several weeks late because the PTY-XXXX was excluded. I’ve called them 3 times to change the address. The last time, the IRS person said she changed the address. However, the address problem continues.

    The SSA uses the address provided by the IRS. In a few months, I qualify for SS benefits. I’m concerned I’ll have address problems when I sign up.

    I have not yet called the international desk of the SSA to discuss the problem.
    I have done some research at the USPS web site on valid and invalid address formats. I have some more research to do.

    So…CC readers…if you use a mail forwarding service, what address format have you found that works for the IRS and SSA? There are conflicting rules. But…bottom line is: What works?

  2. If you read the first post, mail forwarding company addresses are not allowed. You need an incountry address. General delivery at minimum.

  3. I looked over the form on line and have a question. They want a house address if you are using general delivery here in Panama. As you know, we don’t really have street addresses. IDAAN list me as “close to the health clinic,” and Union Fenosa addresses my bill to “the two story house at the end of the road by the bus stop.”

    Any ideas on how to deal with this?

  4. Yes…I read the first post several times. I also read and copied SSG’s comments to a growing folder on my computer to help me put the pieces of the puzzle together. When the puzzle comes together for me…it will be a simple solution I’m sure. Respectfully, I’m looking for solutions not a recitation of what isn’t allowed. There are several thousand “gringos” in Chiriqui who probably file income tax returns and collect SS. If they use a mail forwarding service, then what address format do they use? Or…perhaps the IRS only allows a PO Box for them (like me)…and they subsequently contacted the SSA’s international desk and had their address modified manually.

    If they don’t use a mail forwarding service and are “of record” living in Panama (or elsewhere outside the USA), what address do THEY use for IRS/SSA stuff…that works? Maybe I need to use “entrega general.” But then, I’ll get mail a month late like I am now.

    Of course…if they’re not “of record” living outside the USA…then they probably won’t respond.

  5. First, this post was related to SSA benefits, not IRS. However, I don’t know how to say it any different. To be compliant with the regs, as I read them, you need to provide the SSA with an in country address. P.O. Box, General delivery Boquete, The green house by the coconut tree, next to the yellow mailbox in Las Lajas. When I have filed my IRS, I put my mail forwarding box in Florida on the form in the past.

    Numbers for the U.S. Embassy FBU is on the Embassy website. They will give you an answer. May not be one you like, but they do talk to the IRS too.

  6. Thanks Don. I’m getting closer to a solution that works for me. I read additional comments in the original “Proof of Life” post.

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