My Proof Of Life Process

Like many of you, that read this blog, I was not compliant with my address notification to the Social Security about my living in Panama and was one of the people that would be scheduled to have my Social Security payments stopped. Refer back to the Proof Of Life post.

Here is what I have done. First I acquired a post office box at the post office in David. I was fortunate enough to learn of one that was going to be freed up and took it. I asked a friend to send me a letter to test that it was working and to measure the speed. To this point it is over 3 weeks and his letter has not arrived.

I don’t consider this to be unusual as I had a letter sent to my mail forwarding address in Florida and it took almost a month to get to me. Getting mail in Panama can be a struggle.

However, it is better for some of us in Panama than others. I was talking with Larry Shane, who is the Warden in Bocas, and he said they were receiving about 4 deliveries a year. If you want to send anything out, it has to be ready to be picked up when a delivery comes in.

Obviously anyone living in Bocas will never have the opportunity to respond to the SSA notification letter in time, so Larry is working with the Embassy in Panama City to find a solution.

Back to my process. Having the post office box, I was ready to fill out Form SSA-21 to update my address. I downloaded the form and took my first cut at it. Before mailing it to the Embassy, I decided to scan it and send it to the FBU in Panama City to have them validate it.

I must be having my share of the stupids because it took me three times yesterday to get the form filled out so that it had all the information that was needed. Personnel in the FBU helped me and walked me through fixing my errors. Thank you FBU!

Now that I have the form correctly filled out, I will mail it (registered mail) from the David Post Office to the FBU department in the U.S. Embassy in Panama City. I will most likely call them a week after I mail it to verify that they have received it.

The FBU will then handle the communications with the SSA and that should take care of me for the next two years.

I know there have been a lot of other suggestions of what to do. I will remind you that if you wind up having a problem with your SSA payment, it will be the FBU department in Panama City that will have to bail you out. You might as well start building a relationship with them now rather than later.

In another week, I will be compliant. How about you?

21 thoughts on “My Proof Of Life Process

  1. Hi Don,
    I just completed SSA-21 forms for my wife and myself. The FBU imstructed me to scan them along with copies of our passports and email them to the FBU. I did so this morning and am awaiting further instructions. I just returned from the US, and the local Social Security office didn’t have a clue!! We’ll see what happens with this attempt.

  2. What about all of us who have MailBoxesEtc addresses in Miami. We have both a Box nbr and a physical address. I’ve been here for 8 years and still get my checks to my Florida bank every month.

    I’m not comfortable with divulging my real location here. Especially in light of whats going on back in the USSA.

  3. I have been here 10 years and have my check deposited in a Texas bank. The MailBoxes ETC address does not comply. I also have a Florida mail forwarding address.

    You do what you want, but I will tell you that you are at risk.

    Maybe you will be luck and maybe you won’t.

  4. I guess once the Social Security payment stops for you Forrester, then you will have to decide what is important. Don’s being very open to share his situation. My hunch we are all in the same boat. It’s difficult when there are no mailboxes available up here in Boquete. Like you, we are in a muddle as to what to do. If we could share…like your local community where you live…people you trust share a PO box. . That’s an idea….if there were available boxes. So back to square one.The other problem we are having is being called for jury duty back home and getting the notice well after the fact.

  5. I plan to use my parent’s home address in Texas to receive mail. They notify me if anything official-looking arrives. Hopefully that will suffice for a while.

  6. That is a plan. Not legal since you are a permanent resident in Panama, but a Plan. Should the US detect that you are living outside the US and using a US address, that is justification for them to immediately stop payments.

  7. exactly !!! And, apparently the US gov IS locating US citizens resident here who have done just what you are saying. If you collect Soc Sec and are a permanent resident outside the US you are obligated by law to give them your address in the foreign country.
    MailBox Etc address does NOT count.

  8. I am sorry I can’t help only to tell you I have a sister that is an attorney and have many people with similar problems let me know if you need legal aid.

  9. My guess is that there are a large percentage of us that do not trust the US govt anymore. We are not willing to give up our locations. Unfortunately, the new banking law does that for any who still have accounts here as well as this SS reg that is stealing our money from us.

  10. Don,
    Dose that also apply to those who are not receiving any SS benefit? I’m only fifty and have another 15 or so years before I can draw on any benefits. In the 10 years I’ve been in Panama I have had no issues with any US Government agency except one time when a smart ass customs official in Huston hassled me about being in gone for several years.

    I guess she didn’t realize that I don’t live in the USA which she never asked about and
    I never volunteered any information about my whereabouts nor motives for being out of the country so long.

  11. Jim, as I said it is your decision. You have been informed, and I would count on the MailBoxes etc address working as the SSA will not mail to mail forwarding addresses.

    Greg, I can’t answer your question.

  12. I have a post office box in David. I was due to receive Form SSA 7162 this year. It arrived on the 15th. I filled it out and mailed it with the mail lady at Tuesday Morning Meeting. A friend is doing her change of address form SSA 21. She had trouble figuring out what her physical address was. If you do not have a post office box you might consider if General Delivery works. I think it would be (your name), 0426 Entrega General, David, Chiriqui, Republica de Panama. 0426 is the zip code for David. I do not know if it goes before or after Entrega General. I’d say check around with others and see if General Delivery works for them.

  13. Hi Oldtimer. It is good that you brought up the physical address. They are indeed looking for a physical address and not a PO Box number or other mailing address. General Delivery at the post office will not work. That is a mailing address.

    That was one of my mistakes that they told me to correct.

    Use the Barrio location such as Alto Boquete, or Potrerillos Arriba or El Terronal, David.

    If you put in your PO Box or General delivery for the Post Office, that will not be correct.

  14. Don Ray: Please don’t take this personal, informative…I contacted you when I had a problem with postal service for our 1099…..Didn’t get..for months. .Had to get in touch with the US Embassy and have our forms sent via net..I don’t want to put our Soc. sec. Numbers and all the rest over the net ,but had to. ….They do a great job…When I contacted you, I told you we were months in not getting our forms, BUT, YOU TOLD ME TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A PERSON AT THE POSTAL SERVICE..(NOW, I GUESS YOU DON’T BUT YOU HAVE THE CONNECTIONS) .We had but she quit and the others don’t know what in the hell they are doing..You told me that the US Embassy wasn’t involved in Gov’t postal regs. (NOW, WHEN YOU ARE INVOLVED, THEY ARE). –When we finally got our forms by Postal, Stamped December l8 and January…(THIS MAIL WAS THERE BUT NOT GIVEN TO US)……..didn’t get until after April. NOW….I AM GLAD THAT THIS HAPPENED TO YOU BUT YOU HAVE THE CONNECTIONS — we don’t .The only thing that bothered me, is your telling me to have a “PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP” WITH SOMEONE AT THE POST OFFICE…>>>AND noooo>. Are we all on getting Panama in reality? Have a great day….Charlotte.

  15. The US Embassy has nothing to do with the Panama Postal service.The Panama Postal service is a necessary evil when it comes to having an in country mail address. Whether it will work for you or anyone, is always a challenge. As I mentioned, Bocas has close to non-existant service.

    I am not sure why you think I am having better service than you. As of now, I have received nothing at the David Post Office. When I use the David Post Office to mail Tax forms etc, I always use registered Mail. Registered mail tends to not get lost.

    I will also say that having a personal relationship with any entity in Panama helps, whether it be the Post Office, a restaurant, your neighbor, whatever.

    I find the better I treat others, the better they treat me. You have a great day as well.

  16. Thanks…..Want to let you know that EVERYTHING I SEND IS REGISTERED and can be traced…Have NEVER LOST a registered mail….If the US Embassy doesn’t have access to reliability of the postal service — we need someone to get on top of this and get it right….I know you have been doing all you can, BUT, SOMEONE HAS TO GET THE POSTAL SERVICE ON TRACK…WHO???? WHO??? .Thanks for your response.

  17. Sorry: I forgot to mention, that every time I ask someone in the US to send a “registered Mail” they don’t..and won’t .. …Figure that one out…..another $$ to get it here to recipient and not in their pocket?

  18. Factoid
    Why do my orders always get here ( and quick)…and mail that’s important, (like my 1099s) get sent back to the sender, and I get them after the tax filing date? The sender puts them in the mail Jan 15, they get sent back and forth and arrive all crumpled up after tax time. Now ( get this) the huge tax payment we paid one year, got handily sent back to us after the government cut us a new check and labeled it “overpayment”. It cost us $120.00 that year just to mail in our tax payment ( FedExc X2) !
    Wierd, thats all. (just sayin) That said, we LOVE it here. Minor annoyance in the scheme-O-things.

  19. My address is :::; Entrega General 0426
    David, Chiriqui
    Republica de Panama 806

    This is what I got before and it is working, BUT, ONLY registered….IF not registered, problem. Soc. Sec. and all the rest OUT OF THE US WITH HEALTHCARE REFUNDS, AND WILL NOT SEND REGISTERED. .. BUT, THE PEOPLE AT THE POST OFFICE ARE NOT COMPETENT NOT BY THEIR FAULT. I JUST THINK THEY HAVE NOT BEEN TRAINED and GIVEN INFORMATION ON “HOW TO”. WHAT PART OF THE PANAMA GOV’T IS TAKING CARE OF THIS? Someone has to talk to someone.. to fix a problem with mail. By the way, no one in the US of A knows the problems we contend with here..because of no addresses and exact locations. …

  20. It’s NOT just Panama. Mail delivery outside of the USA is a universal problem in the third world. Solving the issue handily would then go back to the US to come up with a procedure that works……. and makes sense.

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