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 for 20 years or more. If you register with the VA or Tricare, you could be eligible for medical care in Panama. Learn how to register below and see additional information about hospitals where you can get care in Panama.
We recently received this update from a Veterans Service Officer in Panama:
In Panama retired and non-retired Veterans who were honorably discharged with a VA awarded disability of 0% to 100%, are covered under the VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) in Panama. These Veterans are eligible for VA-FMP covered medical care and medication prescriptions in Panama at certain locations. The veteran must register with VA-FMP. https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/fmp/index.asp
If you do not have a VA ID, visit a VA hospital or clinic whenever you travel back to the US with a copy of your DD214 to request a VA-ID . NOTE: The VA ID is not required for medical services overseas. You will only need your VA-FMP benefit letter listing your awarded disabilities. VA-FMP covers medical services and medications overseas for VA awarded disabilities.
NOTE: If you DO NOT have VA awarded disabilities, you WILL NOT have VA medical coverage overseas. For this reason, you should visit your nearest Veteran Service Officer (VSO) for guidance and assistance if you believe you have service-connected disabilities to claim.
Spouses, dependent children, widows and widowers of non-retired veterans, that have been declared to be 100% total and permanently (T&P) disabled by VA, are also eligible for medical services and medications under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/dependents/champva/champva_eligibility.asp
The 100% T&P non-retired veteran and his dependents are also authorized DOD ID Cards for entry into military installations. They will have access to commissaries, PX/BX and MWR in some countries although they are not available in Panama.
Dependents of retired and non-retired 100% T&P veterans are entitled to Chapter 35, Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), to be used towards a degree in VA certified colleges and universities.
TRICARE Select, TRICARE for Life and CHAMPVA beneficiaries have a 25% co-pay for medical services and medications.
For retired veterans and their spouses, ensure you sign up for MEDICARE Part-B prior to your 65th birthday. You will drop out of TRICARE and not be medically insured if you do not have MEDICARE Part-B at age 65. Manage this most important life event very carefully and don’t miss it. Permanent penalties apply if you register in MEDICARE Part-B after age 65.
Medicare Part-B is Mandatory by Law to continue TRICARE coverage, even if it does not provide coverage outside of the US.
To keep TRICARE coverage, when military retirees and their spouses turn age 65, they must enroll in Medicare Part-B and pay the standard Part-B monthly premium.
Even though Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the US, Public Law 106-398, October 30, 2000, mandates Medicare Part-B enrollment if you wish to remain eligible for TRICARE for Life (TFL) at age 65 and beyond.
Apply for Medicare Part-B before your 65th birthday to avoid a break in TRICARE for Life coverage.
By taking a few simple steps, you can make sure you have your TRICARE benefits at age 65 and beyond.
Four months before your 65th birthday, you should receive a postcard from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), the office that supports the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), with information about keeping TRICARE coverage at age 65 and beyond.
If you do not receive a postcard from DMDC, call them at (800) 538-9552.
You must have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B to be eligible for TRICARE For Life, even if you live overseas and Medicare does not provide coverage.
TRICARE For Life is the Medicare wrap-around coverage for TRICARE beneficiaries who are entitled to Medicare Part A and have Medicare Part B regardless of where you live.
The Medicare initial enrollment period is seven months. If you miss your initial enrollment period, your next chance to sign up for Medicare Part B is during the general enrollment period, Jan. 1 – March 31. Your coverage will begin July 1st, and your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up for it. Also, there will be a lapse in your TRICARE coverage until Part B is effective.
Overseas, your nearest US Embassy with a Social Security office can also assist with Medicare Part-B enrollment. When you tell the Embassy officer that you are retired military, or the spouse/survivor of a retired military service member, and they state you do not need Medicare Part-B overseas, they are incorrect. US Embassies overseas make this mistake and the beneficiary will be penalized by the SSA for enrolling late in Medicare Part-B to maintain TRICARE.
** Another way to enroll:
– If you are a military retiree, age 65, and already receiving SS retirement benefits, please enroll by completing Form CMS-40B.
– If you are a retiree, age 65, and have not applied for SS retirement benefits yet, please enroll in Medicare Part-B by completing Form CMS-40B or online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare
– If you are a spouse or survivor of a retiree, aged 65, please enroll in Medicare Part-B by completing Form CMS-40B
– You can also apply for Medicare Part-B using your online SS account
Important: when applying for Medicare Part-B and have not applied for SS retirement benefits yet, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will contact you for further information. Provide a valid phone number, and area code, where you can be contacted.
REMEMBER: If you are enrolling in Medicare Part-B to keep your TRICARE for Life benefits, you must answer “YES” when the Social Security representative asks if you want to enroll in Medicare Part-B.
**For survivors (widow/widower), on Form CMS-40B, include the following in “Remarks”:
1) Your Deceased spouse’s Name and Social Security Number (SSN) if you do not have your own SSN
2) The word “TRICARE”
3) Indicate if you are receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Write “VA Survivors Pension”
4) Write “Interpreter” and the language you require, if you need translation assistance for the follow-up telephone interview
Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) are available to provide guidance and assistance. Click “VSO” on the main menu for details.
If you are covered by VA-FMP, there is no cost for medications if prescribed for service-connected VA awarded disabilities. You should verify that the Panamanian pharmacies have the medications you need or it may be necessary to have your medications shipped in to Panama.
Several hospitals throughout Panama offer services to Veterans. In Chiriqui province, on far western Panama, Veterans use Hospital Mae Lewis. Near Panama City, use Hospital Brisas. A Veteran Service Office can tell you which other hospitals work with Veterans in Panama.
Hospital Brisas is a private hospital. It is NOT a VA Hospital, is not funded by the U.S. Federal Government and is in no way associated with the U.S. Federal government. Hospital Brisas, in Panama City, Republic of Panama, accepts VA-FMP, CHAMPVA, TRICARE Select and TRICARE for Life. Any deductibles apply.
If you would like to use the services provided by Hospital Brisas or be hospitalized, contact Itzi Soriano or Aracelis, Veterans Services Office, at 507-6799-4961. Email: [email protected]
Hospital Brisas occupies the complete second floor of Signature Plaza located in Brisas del Golf, Panama City. Patients and visitors are greeted by a professional staff, an attractive and welcoming environment, well lit airy public spaces, comfortable waiting areas, and modern consulting rooms. The hospital is one of the most modern and well equipped in Panama City, with medical equipment purchased from Germany.
Hospital Brisas has been specifically built and designed around the needs of the patient to enhance the quality of care, speed up diagnosis and provide exceptional medical treatment. You will be happy with the 835 parking spaces distributed on the ground floor and underground. To access the hospital on the second floor, Signature Plaza has escalators and elevators located in the center, east, and west wings of the plaza.
The following services are provided:
*Reception Office / Information Desk at the main entrance
*VA-FMP, TRICARE, CHAMPVA Help Desk
*Outpatient specialty clinics
*Inpatient medical services
*Ambulatory minor surgery
*Ambulatory medical service
*Urology and gynecology
*(Imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, mammography). MRI is outsourced
*24/7 emergency service
*Insurance office for most private medical insurances accepted in Panama
Outpatient appointments, X-ray, MRI, laboratories or special procedures, please call 309-2300, Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm.
CLICK HERE for more information about Hospital Brisas
If you are covered by VA-FMP, there is no cost for medications if prescribed for service-connected VA awarded disabilities. However, over the counter medications are not covered.
VETERAN SERVICE OFFICERS
There are Veteran Service Officers throughout Panama to offer guidance and assistance – at no charge. The Veteran Service Officers will assist and guide you with the necessary paperwork to file for medical benefits in Panama.
Veterans helping Veterans. Retiree mission statement: “Our mission has changed, but our duty has not.”
This is a list of Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) available to assist you in Panama:
Butcher Operations Officer Panama City, Panama
Blis Liaison and Public Affairs Officer Panama City, Panama
Frank [email protected] Panama City, Panama
Tim [email protected] Chorrera, Panama
JR [email protected] Chiriqui, Panama
Rey [email protected] Hospital Brisas, Panama City
David [email protected] Chitre, Azuero Panama
CLICK HERE for more information about the Veteran Service Offices and the support they can provide to you
I’ve heard there are 800 Veterans in Chiriqui Province in far western Panama. I don’t know how many Veterans are in all of Panama. The Veterans in David get together for coffee on Wednesday mornings. The Veterans in Boquete have a meeting every Thursday. You can get information about other Veteran meetings by contacting the Veteran Service Officer closest to the town where you live in Panama. See the list above of Veteran Service Officers in Panama.
There is an Annual Veterans Meeting in Panama City sponsored by HealthAlliance, Panama. Key guest speakers from VA and other agencies are invited. The meeting is followed by a luncheon where veterans and their spouses have the opportunity to meet and know veterans from all over Panama. CLICK HERE to see details about the next Annual Veterans Meeting
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. Many hospitals reserve the right to accept or decline TRICARE. Ensure detailed receipts are secured from the hospital to submit reimbursement claims to TRICARE. You have 3 years to submit your claim from overseas. Claims can be submitted online once you create a TRICARE account at http://www.tricareoverseas.com/Beneficiaries.htm
(b) VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is for VA awarded disabilities from 0% to 100%. VA awarded disabilities are 100% covered overseas if listed on the VA-FMP letter.
Does the veteran have to pay for services in advance then reimbursed by the VA?
(a) If the disability is listed on the VA-FMP award letter, the veteran does not have to pay for medical services or medications. HealthAlliance, Panama, will provide the medical services and prescribed medications, then bill VA-FMP directly.
(b) Medical services for non-service connected disabilities, not listed on the VA-FMP letter, must be paid by the veteran. VA will not reimburse non-service connected expenses. If the veteran has TRICARE insurance, then a reimbursement claim can be submitted to TRICARE.
If you have questions or require assistance, contact one of the VSOs in the area where you reside in Panama.
HELP! IF YOU DO NOT QUALIFY for Veteran benefits in Panama, don’t feel like you are stuck living close to a VA Hospital in the US. 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 Regional Hospitals in Panama where it is only $1.50 to see a doctor and get substantial discounts on medications. 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.
MEDICARE cannot be used in Panama. Veterans cannot cancel MEDICARE Part-B at any time or you will dropped 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.vsooverseas.com/for more details
Come and enjoy tropical Panama with the thousands of veterans and other expats who have made Panama their retirement home.