Tag Archives: Retiring in Panama

U.S. Embassy Link Information Updated for POL and Change of Address

I received the following information from the ACS unit in the U.S. Embassy in Panama City.

Wardens – below are the two links that we have updated to try to make the situation with having a foreign address in the Social Security system if you are living outside the US and the Proof of Life requirement for all persons receiving benefits when living outside the US a little more clear.

People living inside the US do not have the same Proof of Life requirement as those living outside the country, just to be clear.

These are official regulations, and must be followed to avoid interruption of benefits.   If US citizens living here are getting other information from the US that they wish to act on instead, they are, of course, free to do so.  If they can share the contacts that are providing this information to them, we would appreciate it.

The following are updated links relative to Social Security Changes of Address and Proof of Life requirements provided for your information.

http://panama.usembassy.gov/ssae.html – Change of address

http://panama.usembassy.gov/ssai.html  – Proof of life

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.

More Notes From Embassy Warden Meetings in Panama City

The last post was on the Proof of Life notification that is required of all individuals living outside the U.S., who receive Social Security Benefits.

The website for other items covered by the FBU is http://panama.usembassy.gov/federal_benefits_unit.html I recommend that you makes yourself familiar with it if you are a U.S. Citizen living in Panama.

The FBU handles more than just Social Security payments. Email addresses and telephone numbers for the FBU are on their website.

The website for the U.S. Embassy on Panama City is http://panama.usembassy.gov

The ACS (American Citizen Services) is a major unit of the U.S. Embassy in Panama and the one that hosted the Warden’s meetings last week. Its website is http://panama.usembassy.gov/american_citizen_services_unit.html

Today, I will focus on the presentation given by ACS. They estimate that less than 10% of the U.S. Citizens register with the Embassy. This is really a shame in my opinion. They also estimated that there were around 42,000 U.S. citizens living in Panama. 1/2 in Panama City and the other 1/2 outside Panama City. You can register at the following site. https://step.state.gov/step/

The U.S. Embassy had an office in David in the past. If they had a better head count of citizens living in Chiriquí there might be justification of having an office in Chiriquí again.

My notes of the presentation by the ACS follows. Please note that these notes were as of May 8, 2013. Continue reading More Notes From Embassy Warden Meetings in Panama City

Banking in Latin America

If you use ATMs in Latin America to get your money from your accounts in other countries, expect to have periodic problems. It has happens to me twice and on Friday it happened to Lilliam.

Here is the scenario.

Lilliam made an ATM request to get money from her account in Costa Rica. The ATM went through the motions to give the money – noise giving the impression it was getting ready to dispense money, but alas, no money.

In my past cases, the ATM made sounds like it counting the money too, but then stopped because of a problem. Maybe it had less money that it thought it had. Maybe it had a hardware failure. For what ever reason it didn’t give money.

The latest problem happened to Lilliam at Banco Universal in El Rey. When it didn’t give the money, it put up a strange warning message saying not to reenter the pin number. The other ATM in El Rey afterwards said the daily limit had been exceeded, indicating that the first ATM had indeed posted the transaction.

When one of the ATMs erroneously posts a withdrawal, the only way to resolve it is through your bank. Even though the bank with the failing machine has a record of the transaction not going through and the daily balance being off, you have to resolve it by calling the bank having the account.

When I have had it happen to me, I have been able to call my bank in the US and talk to a real person and handle the problem over the phone. If memory serves me, the transaction was always corrected by the end of the phone call.

Lilliam’s bank was in Costa Rica. Multiple phone calls to the bank failed to get to a real person. The only thing left to do was to drive to the Frontera and go to the bank there.

The wait in the bank was about 2 1/2 hours. Then Lilliam was told the claim would be submitted to San Jose and it would take 22 days to process and at that time the money should be place back in the account.

The bank charged her $10 for this fantastic service. When you add to that $10 for gasoline to drive to the Frontera, it was a pretty expensive hardware failure. It will be interesting to see, when the transaction is reversed, if they also reverse the ATM and Clave charges. What do you think are the odds of that happening?

If you choose to live in Panama or any Latin American country, it is the bureaucracy that is the most difficult to get used to. I thought it was an annoyance when I had to call the US when I had ATM problems here. It was nothing compared to the problems Lilliam had to go through to fix the problem today and we won’t know if it is solved for 22 days.

Mutterings From The Low Lands (i.e. the Dark Side)

As a friend of mine told me recently, admitting you live in David is tantamount to saying your home is in South Chicago.

Chiriquí Chatter has received several hits as a result of a post by Richard Detrich. His post invited his readers to visit Chiriquí Chatter for a more “Generous” view of David.

Here is the specific area of his post I will respond to.

Chris, Panama is booming . . . but much of the boom is located closer to Panama City where most of the population is located. David, 30 minutes from Boquete, is the third or second largest city in Panama depending on how you count, and is really growing with new malls and stores. David however IS hot and humid. Very hot and humid and very unlike Boquete in that regard. Boquete is a mountain town, higher altitude so Spring-like year round. Most of us who live in Boquete go to David only when we have to for big shopping, doctor visits and the like, but happily escape back to Boquete as soon as we can. [For a more generous view of David, check out Don Ray Williams Chiriqui-Chatter Don is an expat who happily lives in David.]

Continue reading Mutterings From The Low Lands (i.e. the Dark Side)


I received the following email request for assistance from retirees living in Panama

From……: Lauren Cohen
Email…..: lauren_cohen@unc.edu

I represent a group of researchers at the University of North Carolina in the U.S. Our research interests generally include aging, long-term care, and healthcare for older adults. As the demographics of retirees change, we have become interested in ‘non-traditional’ retirement options. To this end, we have conducted research in popular retirement destinations in Mexico, and are now interested in learning more about retirement in Panama.

Below is an advertisement for a research study that we are conducting in Panama in July 2009.  Your blog was recommended to me by one of our informants as a good place for U.S. retirees to receive such notifications. Would you be willing to post this to your blog? Or can we?

The ad is as follows:


Paid volunteers wanted for a research study aimed at understanding the health care experiences of U.S. retirees living in Panama.

Are you:
•Retired to Panama from the U.S.?, and
•Age 60 or older?, and
•Suffering from or caring for someone with a chronic medical condition that affects the ability to perform everyday activities independently?,
•Living with or caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia?

If so, then you may be eligible to participate in a research study being conducted in Panama by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Participation consists of a one-hour interview with a member of our research staff. Interviews will be held in the Boquete and David areas during July 23-29. During the interview, you will be asked to describe your experiences receiving health care while in Panama. Study participants will each receive $40 upon completion of the interview.

To learn more about the study and to schedule a time for your interview, please contact the study coordinator, Lauren Cohen, MA by email at lauren_cohen@unc.edu or by phone at 0-1-919-843-8874.

Retirement Wave

I spent the morning with a couple from the US that is considering retiring in Panama in a year or two. We had coffee in the morning and then lunch after they attended a church service. We then took a very short tour of some residential areas in David.

They mentioned that they had obtained a good feel for living in Panama by reading Chiriquí Chatter, but also read Retirement Wave. To be honest, I think I had quickly looked at it in the past, but for some reason, had not put it in my link list. I think that may have been because it really didn’t fall within a blog category and when they don’t I get skeptical that they are out to make money on gringos somehow.

This afternoon I took a more thorough look and decided that it contained unbiased information that might be of interest to some of my readers. It is aimed at people planning on retiring in Panama and is written in a very positive tone. By comparison, Chiriquí Chatter might be considered more negative, but I hope also is representative of the life I lead in David, Chiriquí. I try to tell the good with the bad.

If you are contemplating retiring in Panama, Retirement Wave would be a worthwhile read. If there is a hidden agenda to this site, I haven’t found it. Since my blog is not aimed at providing information specifically related to retirement, I will direct you to the Retirement Wave. I have added it to the Link section in the area containing retirement information.

Of Interest to Retirees Using Tricare

I received the following email regarding Tricare in Chiriquí.

As of 1 February 2009, Hospital Chiriquí will no longer be accepting Tricare as payment for services rendered from military retirees and their families. Tricare has restricted the payments for services for
the Panama area, due to continuous overcharging in this area (actually by this hospital), and this hospital will not accept the fee rates applied by Tricare for this area. This is the same thing happening at Hospital Nacional in Panama City.

After talking to Javier Adames at Hospital Mae Lewis, here is their status: They have sent Tricare a letter, and are expecting an answer soon. Once this answer is received, they will have a meeting with
their doctors and decide if they will be accepting Tricare as payment for services, or not. He further stated that if the doctors vote “No” to accepting Tricare payments, other services at the hospital MAY still be accepting Tricare for services (ie. Lab, X-Ray, Hospitalization, etc). More to follow on this when Mr Adames gets back to me.

This means that we may end up paying for any/all services at the hospitals, and submitting to Tricare for reimbursement. For those who are living on military retirement only, or even with minimum SSA
income, this could become a problem.

If you want to talk more about this off of the group, feel free to email me at wapagel@yahoo.com , or call me at 775-9091/6682-1650.

It may be beneficial if all of the military retirees contact Mr Javier Adames at Hospital Mae Lewis, and let him know your concerns. It can only help, not hurt, the situation. Thanks.

Bill Pagel

Eyes Wide Open

The following came from on one of the Yahoo Panama Groups. The author wrote this to balance some of the “Panama is Perfect in every way” posts that are portrayed on the commercial (for profit) websites and sometimes on the Panama Yahoo groups. Panama is not for everyone. If you are considering Panama as a retirement location, then you need to decide with your Eyes Wide Open.

I have read his post a couple of times and really can’t find anything that I completely disagree with. The author has had some experiences that I haven’t had, but until you feel comfortable that you understand what you are getting into, then a little caution can’t hurt. I sent the author an email for permission to repost it on Chiriquí Chatter. I haven’t heard back, but I am assuming that the author will have no objections. Continue reading Eyes Wide Open