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  • December 30, 2008 9:52 AM EST


    The beautiful surroundings, the climate, the friendly people, and the contrasting and intriguing cultures are all listed as reasons why veterans choose to live abroad. But far and away the most common and compelling reason is economic. The truth is, as unpopular as it is to say out loud, the United States is no place to live on a low, fixed income. And it has become more so in the last few decades. For this reason, more and more veterans are living the ex-patriot life in countries where their pensions are sufficient to allow for a comfortable lifestyle. Examples of this are found on the web sites of these men and women, but my own experiences tell one story that is echoed by many. An ever increasing choice for veterans who have a limited, fixed income, such as retirement or VA disability pensions is Mexico. This writer moved to Mexico last year. For me it was strictly a financial decision. My wife and I were always planning to relocate in Mexico when we retired. But we were forced to re-evaluate our situation after my wife suffered a stroke which left her unable to continue working. After about 18 months of trying different home and supportive care services, we decided that in the current economy it was costing me money to continue working. It`s a sad commentary, but the truth is that we are living quite comfortably in Mexico on what we were paying for adult day care for my wife while I worked.


    For those of you who wonder how anyone could leave the country they love, have served in it`s military, maybe shed blood or lost body parts, and take good old American dollars to a foreign country, let me tell you it`s quite easy and not as unpatriotic as it sounds. Those of us who have decided to live abroad are not traitors. We are not unpatriotic and we certainly are no less American for doing so. For me, the choice was easy, continue to work after my wife`s medical emergency and earn just enough money to be short each month and continue to go slowly into bankruptcy, or, move to where our disability pensions permit me to stay at home and care for my wife and still live a quiet middle income lifestyle.

    With high speed Internet communications, cable TV, Internet banking, ATMs, and available, albeit expensive, commercial air travel, those of us who live abroad are no less in touch than anyone else. We vote, pay income tax, (and for those who maintain a US presence, property taxes, school taxes, etc.) and continue to be United States citizens in all aspects. We continue to bank in the US mostly because direct deposit is not available abroad, but also because our money is protected by the government we served and support. Many of us actually live in large communities of ex-pats. These alcoves of America in foreign lands provide a ready-made support system for it`s members. The bottom line is that taking your pension to another country where it goes much farther makes sense for some. For others, it doesn`t. The next time you fill your gas tank for $50 or $60, or slip and slide on icy roads, or have to choose between food or medicine, consider relocating to Mexico.
     My new E-Book, RETIRE TO MEXICO-20 Questions You Need To Answer, is designed for those moving to Mexico, but the process is exactly the same for any country in the world. The only things that change are the forms and maybe the language. And you can`t drive to Thailand.

    VA Benefits Available to Veterans Living Abroad

    The USVA has addressed the phenomenon of thousands of our brothers and sisters choosing to live outside of the US. I say thousands, but the number is probably in the tens of thousands Obtaining an accurate count is impossible. It is impossible because many, even most, of us maintain a US mailing address where we show up as residents of these communities. We pay taxes, vote, have our autos registered, and keep our driving licenses in these states where we have a mail box and a bank account. We do this because the US government refuses to direct deposit our pension checks to a foreign country. And to have a US bank account, we are required to have a US address. So we have a stateside presence while living are daily lives in a foreign country. This is all possible due in most part to the availability of the Internet. The Internet all but completely does away with the need to even visit the US for years at a time. Virtually all of the benefits available to stateside veterans are available to veterans living abroad. The problem most of us face is that these services are not always available where we live. This is the web site to receive all of the up to date information about the most common benefits from the VA:

    The other US agency that is valuable to the veteran living abroad is the Department of State. These are the people who man the Consulates and Embassies around the world. In a crunch they can make contact with our families and coordinate emergency medical evacuations, if, God forbid, something catastrophic happens. There is a slight catch, however. Veterans, or anyone living abroad for that matter, are asked to register with the nearest consulate. It`s very easy to do and can be done in a few minutes over the Internet. The form asks for simple biographical information and your address where you live. If you have a phone you can list it. Most importantly, you are able to make special notes on the form. I listed my wifes medical situation on our form (Oh, by the way, couples can register on one form). The return email I received from the State Department indicated that the information was noted in the file started on us. And that`s the catch, we now have an opened State Department file. My friends tell I`m being naive to believe that they didn`t have one opened the minute I applied for a Mexican resident visa last year in Philadelphia and then flashed my passport at the border.