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A Veteran is anyone who has served in the United States military or the National Guard. A retired Veteran is one who served for an entire career, usually of 20 years or more.
In Panama retired Veterans and any Veteran who was discharged with a disability (0% – 100%) are covered under the Veteran Benefits in Panama. These Veterans are eligible for free medical care and free prescriptions in Panama at certain locations. In many cases, a Veteran’s spouse, dependent children, widows, and widowers are also eligible for free medical and prescriptions.
In Panama, there are currently:
♦ 5 medical clinics for Veterans,
♦ 7 pharmacies (with free home delivery)
♦ Multiple hospitals which accept VA or Tricare benefits
♦ plus a new Hospital Brisas for Veterans will be opening in late August 2017.
These following services are available to Veterans who qualify:
In-patient and Out-patient Care
Mental health care
Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation
Laboratory work including X-rays, Cat scans, MRI
If retired, or if the disability is listed on the FMP ( Foreign Medical Program ) award letter, the veteran does not have to pay for services or medications. The Veteran approved pharmacies, clinics, or hospitals in Panama will bill VA directly.
Non-retired Veterans can only receive medical care and medications for service connected disabilities rated at 0% to 100%. The VA ID must state “Service Connected” under the picture and the veteran must be registered in FMP.
A veteran’s disability rating can be verified by his VA Award letter, VA Decision Letter, or the Foreign Medical Program (FMP) letter (if registered).
For any services of non-covered, not service connected, and not listed on the FMP letter, the veteran must pay and will not be reimbursed by VA. If the veteran has TRICARE insurance, then he/she can be reimbursed through Tricare.
There are Veteran Service Officers throughout Panama to offer guidance and assistance – at no charge. . The Veteran Service Officers will assist you with the necessary paperwork to file for medical benefits in Panama. You can reach them at www.HealthAlliance.com.pa or contact:
A few Veterans Service Officers are:
JR – We Care Chiriqui
Robby – We Care Chorrera
A Veterans Service Officer Can Help You With:
– Widow, dependent, spouse assistance and guidance with benefits
– DOD ID Card and C HAMPVA ID Renewa l guidance
– Guidance with application for VA Compensation increase or secondary
– Guidance with application for VA I ndividual Unemploy ability (IU)
– Casualty Assistance (Report of death to VA, DFAS, US Embassy, SS)
– Foreign Medical Program (FMP) Registration for treatment and medications in Panama
– Guidance on the VA Disability Benefit Q uestionnaire (DBQ) m edical exam for claims
– TRICARE claims submission guidance
– CHAMPVA application for spouse/children (100% T&P non-retired veterans)
– Spouse and dependent Chapter 35 Education benefit guidance for Panama
– Preparation of approval documents for university de grees with VA WEAMS
– Assistance and guidan ce with the required annual SS Proof of Life
– Guidance with E-Benefits, TRICARE, MyH ealtheVet, DFAS online accounts
– Guidance on Notic e of Disagreement (NOD) with VA for denied claim
– Explanation of the “Intent to File” a pplication for VA claims
– Asst with notifying VA of yo ur Panama residence for VA claim medical exams
What Do You Need to Get Treatment or Medications in Panama?
The documents required to receive medical assistance and/or medications in Panama:
(a) VA Disability Award Letter
(b) VA Disability Decision Letter
(c) Foreign Medical Program Letter
(b) Retiree ID Card (if retired) for TRICARE verification
To get these documents, Veterans can register and open an account with online E-Benefits to download
many VA and service documents, apply for compensation, and read up or apply for many other benefits.
What is covered?
(a) Using TRICARE insurance, medical services and medications at hospitals and/or pharmacies that accept TRICARE. The veteran that has TRICARE insurance must be prepared to pay cash up-front. Hospitals reserve the right to accept or decline TRICARE. Ensure detailed receipts are secured to submit
reimbursement claims to TRICARE. Claims can be submitted online once you register an online account with TRICARE Overseas (SOS) at http://www.tricareoverseas.com/Beneficiaries.htm You have 3 years to submit your claim from overseas.
(b) VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP), for VA service connected disabilities adjudicated at 0% to 100% are covered completely overseas for the disabilities listed on the FMP letter.
Does the veteran have to pay for services in advance then reimbursed by the
(a) If the disability is listed on the FMP award letter, the veteran does not have to pay for services or medications. We Care Pharmacy will provide the prescribed medications and bill VA directly.
(b) For any services of non-covered, non service connected, and not listed on the FMP letter, the veteran must pay and will not be reimbursed by VA. If the veteran has TRICARE insurance, then he/she can be reimbursed by submitting a claim to TRICARE online.
For Military Retirees Only:
If living in Panama, ensure you are enrolled in TRICARE Standard Overseas (TSO). If not, call the TRICARE customer service 215-942-8393 or 877-451-8659 to get this done. You must disenroll from
TRICARE Prime to be placed on TSO.
Create your online TRICARE overseas account so you can manage and view your Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) and also upload claims direclty to the TRICARE claims department.
Create your DFAS MyPay account. If you are receiving retired military pay, and do not have a DFAS MyPay account, go to https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx and create your account. At this
site you can manage changes to your account,download the 1099-R and 1095-B for tax time, and many other options.
Create your online account with VA E-benefits to view your VA compensation payments, apply for VA compensation, request copies of your DD-214, military personnel and medical files. It is a lot easier
if you already have a DFAS MyPay account.
If you have questions or require assistance, send an email to JR, a volunteer Veterans Service Officer at email@example.com
IF YOU DO NOT QUALIFY for Veteran benefits in Panama, don’t feel like you are stuck living close to a VA Hospital. In Panama, a routine doctor visit is $10 to $15 without insurance. Once you get a residency Visa in Panama, you can use the Social Security or public hospitals in Panama where it is only $1.50 to see a doctor and get substantial discounts on medications. After a heart attack, a friend was in a public hospital for 10 days – his total bill was under $1,000. Medical care is much more affordable in Panama.. and I personally think the quality of care is much better too. Health insurance is available even if you have preexisting conditions.
IMPORTANT NOTE: ***
MEDICARE cannot be used in Panama. You cannot cancel MEDICARE Part-B at any time or you will drop out of TRICARE and not be insured.
In the United States, all veterans are entitled to 100% care at any VA hospital, service-connected or not.
Overseas, veterans can only receive medical care and medications for service connected disabilities rated at 0% to 100%. The VA ID must state “Service Connected” under the picture and the veteran must be registered in FMP.
I know it all sounds complicated.
But understand, if you are a retired Veteran or were in the military and discharged with a disability (even 0%), you may be eligible for free medical and prescriptions in Panama. A Veterans Service Office in Panama can help you get set up for these services. Contact http://www.healthalliance.com.pa/ for more details
You may have heard that customer service is not so good in Panama. I’ve actually had great experience with customer service. But, it’s because I read a lot about Latin culture to know what to expect and not expect. Some examples, if you go to a restaurant they usually will not bring your check until you ask for it. If you’re in a department store, a sales clerk will follow you around. He/she is not watching you to see if you’re going to steal anything; they are actually waiting for you to ask for help so they can come over to assist you. They just do things a little differently in Panama.
Chuck Kent came on my tour several years ago. He wrote me today to share a customer service experience he had. I knew you’d enjoy reading about it so I got permission to share.
Chuck wrote, Please share, without sharing, I would not be here today. Your Tour and your Group of Associates have helped us immensely. As you already know I am not easily impressed but I must say you have done a very impressive job with and through Panama Relocation Tours. Thank you.
I want to add some positive feed back on service in Panama.
I had a problem with water pooling close to the road. The City admitted it was their problem and they would fix it. That was last year. So after we purchased the house, we had too transfer the billing to our name. While there we asked when they would be around to fix the water leak. Well don’t they show up early the next day with a work crew. They dug down and found a broken sewer pipe. Not surprising seeing the house was built in 1939. (see 360 view of the house below)
They worked on trying to clear the house line to the main line at the street, after about 4 hours they approached me and said the damage was not worth fixing. I could make due until they hook up the new sewer lines just installed through out the City or I they could connect me the next day.
Remember I am responsible for the line from the house to the main line on the street. I am thinking in thousands of dollars. They told me I could have it done privately or I can pay them too do it. I thought about it for one second and decided they should do it. This way any problems are their responsibility. I don’t have too deal with them blaming my contractor if something goes wrong. I asked them for a quote. I fixed my self a stiff drink in preparation for the news.
1 Backhoe Operator
1 Backhoe Manager
1 Chainsaw and Operator.
5 hours labour to complete.
I had too supply the the hardware.
4 inch pipe approx 60 feet and all the couplings.
$63.00 with tax. I ask for my Jubilado Discount for household goods and got it.
I am now hooked too the new sewer system. 1 less chore to do later.
Happy campers in Puerto Armuelles
Chuck & Mary
See a 360 view of the house Chuck and Mary purchased in Puerto Armuelles which is on the far western side of Panama, close to the Costa Rica border.
Chuck says, “ It is 1260 Sq Foot raised Tropical Style, 2 Bedroom, 2 Bathrooms. Lower section is open air to help with air circulation and cooling. We have Air Conditioners but have not needed to use them. We sit on 2 one acre lots, with approximately 25 to 30 mature Fruit Trees. I can’t say how much we paid for this, but let’s put it this way I couldn’t put a down payment on the condo we live in, in Toronto for the price of this Property.”
Puerto has a population of about 25,000 and has some of the best beaches in Panama. It has a hospital, grocery stores, and some restaurants. It’s also one of the most affordable beach towns in Panama.
Previously, Chiquita Banana was in full operation there but they left in early 2000 over labor disputes. Since then, Puerto has gone in to disrepair. It’s a very Panamanian town. There are very few expats.
Recently, Del Monte signed a 10 year agreement to start up banana operations in the Puerto area again and they have committed to spending $100 million dollars in Puerto Armuelles over the next ten years. So, things are looking up for Puerto!
After the Panama Relocation Tours we make arrangements for those who are interested to meet with people who live in Puerto who know the area very well. There are a lot of hidden gems that very few people even know about there. We’ll show you where they are!
Join us for a Panama Relocation Tour to learn about many other hidden gems throughout Panama!
See this video that some tourist took of a drive through Puerto Armuelles
Reprinted with permission from Billy and Akaisha Kaderli of www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com Commentary in blue about driving in Panama added by Jackie Lange of Panama Relocation Tours
Most people in the U.S. and Canada own their own cars. Wherever we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store or the next town, we simply jump into our cars and start driving. There’s no second thought about traffic rules, which side of the road to drive on, the language of the land or whether the car is in working order.
Generally, mass transport options are scarce for everyday getting around (unless you live in a city with a subway or airtram) and the use of taxis for transport can add up.
The situation is different in a foreign country. Taxis are cheap, and there are other transport choices like tuk tuks, local buses or bicycle driven taxis. Uber is available and very affordable in Panama City. You can even request an English speaking Uber driver.
Still, even with the abundance of affordable selections for getting around, some still prefer to rent a vehicle.
If this is your choice, below you will find nine useful tips for driving in a foreign country.
- Think twice about renting a car. Hiring a driver is an affordable option in many countries. These personal drivers know where they are going, they know the best sites to visit, and will assure your safety. It is a stress-free option. Many car rental places in Panama will not accept your insurance and force you to buy very expensive insurance.
- Become familiar with a rental car by driving it around the parking lot. If you do decide to rent a car in a foreign country, become familiar with the vehicle by driving it around the parking lot. Check that the seat belts are functioning, that the car is equipped with airbags and make sure the brakes and windshield wipers work. Try the headlights to verify they light up, and confirm that the turn signals blink. Check your fluids and fuel levels. Make sure you have Whatsapp on your cell phone and a cell number for the car rental place so you can call them if you have a problem with the car… know that they may not speak English.
- Plan your route ahead of time. This is very important. Know where you are going, and what stops you can make along the way. Weather conditions or even a local political protest can interrupt an otherwise easy trip and turn it into a nightmare, so have a secondary location where you could stay the night. Are you going through mountains? Do you want to avoid big cities or go right through them? Have a list of hotel choices in your destination place as well as your possible secondary stop. Always have plenty of water and snacks in the car just in case you are delayed.
- Get the latest maps and know the metric system. If you don’t know where you are going, how far it is to get there, or what the speed requirements are you are at a disadvantage. Going too slow or too fast, and not knowing what to expect on the roads ahead can create safety problems. Your car might have a GPS, but if you are going to less populated areas, or off the beaten path, those roads will not be registered in your device. You can’t buy a good map of Panama in Panama. Buy your map from Amazon before you come to Panama.
- Read up on the road laws and know the road culture of the country you are in. Stop signs and speed limits can be meaningless in some countries. It behooves you to take this fact seriously. In some countries like Thailand, the one with the larger vehicle pays for the damage, even if it’s not your fault. If a motorcycle driver runs into you, you are liable for the repair of his bike and his medical coverage. Be aware of your surroundings on the road. In Panama, the maximum speed is 100km or 60 miles an hour and it is strictly enforced. There could be police check points anywhere. The police will want to see your passport and driver’s license. They will check the entry stamp in your passport to make sure you have not overstayed your time in country as a tourist – which is a maximum of 90 days if you are driving.
- Avoid driving at night. Road cultures differ from country to country, and besides the fact that stop signs and speed limits can be meaningless in some countries, there are drivers who choose to turn their headlights off “to save battery power.” As astonishing as this might seem to you, it is often done, especially in rural areas. If you cannot see the car in front of you or the one behind you, this places your safety in jeopardy. If you are driving through a rural area at night, there can be cattle, donkeys, horses and other animals roaming the roadways. They are harder to see at night, and running into them is a rude surprise. I would add, try to avoid driving in the rain, especially hard rain, because it’s hard to see.
- Lack of enforcement and bribery are commonplace in many countries. This may or may not be to your advantage. Especially, if you have an accident with a local driver whose brother is the mayor or police chief! Try to keep your cool in any situation. Demanding, screaming and the flailing of arms will only place you lower on the totem pole of getting anything done in your favor. Don’t assume you have rights. Remember, you are in a foreign country. Move the situation forward with politeness and respect, and take care of your complaints later. If you get a ticket in Panama, you’ll have to go back to that province to pay the ticket. Do not drink and drive, or use your cell phone while driving.
- Don’t be afraid to use your horn. Americans are among the most polite drivers in the world, but it gets them in trouble. In many countries, using the car’s horn is a normal function of driving and is a form of communication. Using your horn can be effective in reducing crashes. Always toot your horn when you are passing someone on a road in Panama.
- Use public transport as often as possible. Public transport is often very good in foreign countries. Bus, air, ferry or rail passes make traveling from place to place affordable and less stressful than renting a car and having to remember on which side of the road to drive. You won’t have to be responsible for the vehicle’s safety or fret about where the next fuel station is. You can catch a snooze, watch captivating scenery or read a book while being transported to your next location. Public buses are readily available and very affordable in Panama. Uber is available in Panama City.
Relax and enjoy yourself!