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Bonnie

Info on SSA Form 7162 ("Proof of Life")

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Recently, in my role as a U.S. warden for Boquete, I sent the following email to the U.S. Embassy in Panama City:

I have been asked whether SSA Form 7162, commonly called the "proof of life" form, can be returned to the embassy rather than directly to the SSA.

Secondly, I have been asked (and wonder myself) if a downloaded form from the Internet can be completed in lieu of the bar coded form sent from the SSA?

The problem here relates to mail service. Most expats receive their mail through a mail forwarding company, which generally is a post office box address in the States. But the SSA demands a physical address. If the form arrives at a Panamanian post office (the expat's physical address in the absence of home delivery here), many expats will never see it because they do not look for their mail at the local post office. Similarly, they worry about returning this important form via the Panamanian mail system as they view it as unreliable.

Following is the response I received. (For those of you with short attention spans, I have underlined the most important language.) Although it was not of my doing, I apologize for the numerous grammatical errors.

Thank you for your e-mail.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sends the Report to the U.S. Social Security Administration form, which serves as their “Proof of Life” with a return envelope for the beneficiaries to return the form.    It is recommended that you make a copy for your records before mailing the form.  [The SSA reports to the SSA?]    

In regards to completing a blank form rather than the preprinted form with the barcode that is sent from the SSA, it is not possible at this time since they require that the form they mailed out be returned to them.   The SSA will be mailing a second request in October to those beneficiaries that are required to complete the form and has not responded to the first request.  

The SSA will let us know when we can start completing the blank forms, which is normally after they have processed the forms returned to them and prepares a report of beneficiaries that did not comply with this requirement.   At this point the beneficiary will be listed for suspension of their benefits which occurs in February/March of each year.  

The SSA regulations requires that the beneficiaries that are living outside of the United States should have a foreign mailing address on their record.  The SSA should not be provided with a Miami address, since this could cause the SSA to suspend their benefits until the address is updated.    To avoid this from happening it is important that the beneficiaries maintain their mailing address updated on their SS record and also that they verify their post office regularly for any mail that is sent to them.   

 To update the mailing address, the beneficiary should send us an e-mail requesting an appointment to do this.

 For information on when you are required to complete with the proof of life process, you may visit the following link: https://panama.usembassy.gov/ssai.html

 For your reference, below please find a message that was sent out in June on the proof of life process.

 

Seal with blue background 

U.S. Embassy Panama

Consular Section

Federal Benefits Unit

As part of the Foreign Enforcement Program, the Social Security Administration (SSA)has started sending out their Report to the U.S. Social Security Administration form, which serves as their “Proof of Life” to the mailing addresses on record with SSA.  

If you meet any of the conditions below, you are required to comply with this requirement this year:

       Beneficiary with a representative payee or

      Beneficiary aged 90 and over or

      The terminal digits of your SSN ends in 00 – 49

 If you have not yet received your form, we recommend that you continue checking at the Post Office.   

 As soon as you receive the form, please answer the questions applicable to you and sign it.  Before mailing the form to the SSA, please make a copy for your records and mail the form with your original signature to the following address:

 Social Security Administration

Wilkes Barre Data Operations Center

1150 E. Mountain Dr.

Room 341

Attention: FEQ Analyst, FEQ Forms 7161-7162

Wilkes Barre, PA 18702-7997

Please note that at this time you can only submit the original form with the bar code sent by the SSA.  It is not possible for you to request a blank form at the Federal Benefits Unit to comply with this process. 

 

 

Edited by Bonnie

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Good morning Bonnie.  We are still a bit concerned about the POL form.  Do you have an update for the Fall of 2017?  We have lived here now for 2.5 years and have all the carnets (e-cedulas, etc) and hubby (age 73) receives SS benefits through a US bank, and October's was deposited as usual this week.  We have not received a POL form at our address in US.  A friend of mine told me this week that Panama's Embassy isn't handling SS issues any longer-Costa Rica is. May we contact you privately for further explanation and "hand-holding"?!  Grin ;)  Thank you K & P 

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Let's start with a quote from the above Embassy message: " The SSA regulations requires that the beneficiaries that are living outside of the United States should have a foreign mailing address on their record.  The SSA should not be provided with a Miami address, since this could cause the SSA to suspend their benefits until the address is updated." You MUST have a Panamanian address, not a U.S. one.  The physical address of Boquete residents is:

Entrega General
Boquete, Chiriqui
Republic of Panama
0413

You have to go the the local post office to get your form. The Embassy says to keep checking through October.

In the past, it has been possible to download the proof of life form from the SSA website, complete it, and file it. This no longer is possible. This issue also is addressed in the Embassy message posted above: "In regards to completing a blank form rather than the preprinted form with the barcode that is sent from the SSA, it is not possible at this time since they require that the form they mailed out be returned to them.   The SSA will be mailing a second request in October to those beneficiaries that are required to complete the form and has not responded to the first request." The form you file must be the form, containing a barcode, mailed to you from the SSA.

I too am concerned as it is my year to file and I haven't received the form. Nor can I check on and potentially update my physical mailing address on the SSA website, as advised by the Embassy, as registration requires a physical address in the U.S. and a U.S. telephone number, neither of which I have. (My recollection is that there used to be a way to change your address on the Embassy website, but that link now shows as Invalid.) This message from August 2016 addresses that shortcoming, but there have been no changes in the system thus far.

I have written several emails to the U.S. Embassy in Panama, but they have provided no information. Instead, they instruct me to go to the website of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica and fill out an online contact form there. I did so approximately three weeks ago. No response. This past week I wrote directly to the SSA in Washington via its online contact form asking what I should do about the proof of life form that is due and how I can register in the SSA system. No response yet. I also have tried calling the SSA, but after being on hold for over 40 minutes, I gave up.

On Monday, I plan to email and/or telephone Mr. Thomas Hayes, head of Citizen Services at the Embassy, and hope to get through other bureaucrats and reach him personally. I will raise these issues with him and will report back here as soon as I know something.

 

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Thanks for all your hard work on this one Bonnie.  Do you have any info on what SS numbers numbers need to report this year?

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1 hour ago, MarieElaine said:

Thanks for all your hard work on this one Bonnie.  Do you have any info on what SS numbers numbers need to report this year?

You must file in 2017 if your SSN ends in 50-99.

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Bonnie, we too thank you for your continued efforts on this topic.  Anxiously await for the report on your experience/conversation with Mr Hayes next week.  I know this is about foreign POLs, but during the 7 years my hubby has been receiving his SSA checks he never received any POL form to complete (living in California)--just curious as to why not...it's not an age-related requirement is it?   

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Only people living outside the US get the POL form. You would not get it if you are living in CA.

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BoqueteBug:

Not that I’m aware of. The problem, I. believe, is that a recorded death abroad doesn’t always reach U.S. records so that SS payment is stopped. In the States, on the other hand, every death is recorded and, presumably, those records are available to the SSA or cross-referenced with SAA records.

Edited by Bonnie

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Bonnie big thanks for your assistance on this topic that is difficult to understand and to comply with. We await to hear the outcome of your experience with Mr. Hayes.  What about the form SSA-21?  Can you shed light on that one too?  Thank you

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Below is a response from Mr. Hayes that I received a few minutes ago:

Ms. Williams,

Anyone who needs Social Security assistance will need to reach out to the Regional Federal Benefits Office in San Jose. Their webpage says they normally respond to emails in 15 working days. Given their additional duties now, I am not sure how that will affect their workload. However, our instructions for the moment are that all Social Security benefits and documents, including Proof of Life forms, are being processed out of San Jose. Additionally, all inquiries about social security benefits need to be answered out of San Jose.

I wish that we could be of more assistance, but unfortunately, we cannot provide you with any further information or guidance on this issue.

Regards,

 

Thomas Hayes

Vice Consul

American Citizens Services/Federal Benefits

Unidad de Asistencia a Ciudadanos Estadounidenses/Beneficios Federales

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2 hours ago, BoqueteBug said:

Bonnie big thanks for your assistance on this topic that is difficult to understand and to comply with. We await to hear the outcome of your experience with Mr. Hayes.  What about the form SSA-21?  Can you shed light on that one too?  Thank you

Mr. Hayes' response, above, directs all social security questions be directed to Costa Rica. You also may want to look at this website: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200205180

I'm sorry I can't help, but I read Mr. Hayes' letter--coupled with earlier correspondence--to say that the Wardens are not to become involved in any social security issues. Neither will the Embassy itself respond to any social security questions. Social Security matters are to be dealt with strictly by the Costa Rica embassy. On virtually all other issues, too, the wardens have been directed to send citizens to the U.S. Embassy in Panama rather than responding themselves.

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Boy, you folks have a huge Embassy down there in the City. Guess they are too busy with important stuff to deal with everyday citizen matters!

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2 hours ago, JohnF13 said:

Boy, you folks have a huge Embassy down there in the City. Guess they are too busy with important stuff to deal with everyday citizen matters!

I have read that U.S. Embassies all over the world are suffering underfunding and understaffing. For example, President Trump demanded the resignation of all Ambassadors but has not accepted most resignations or appointed replacements. Most hiring has been frozen, and budgets have been cut. Given this, I suspect that morale is low as a snake's behind.

Edited by Bonnie
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3 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Below is a response from Mr. Hayes that I received a few minutes ago:

Ms. Williams,

Anyone who needs Social Security assistance will need to reach out to the Regional Federal Benefits Office in San Jose. Their webpage says they normally respond to emails in 15 working days. Given their additional duties now, I am not sure how that will affect their workload. However, our instructions for the moment are that all Social Security benefits and documents, including Proof of Life forms, are being processed out of San Jose. Additionally, all inquiries about social security benefits need to be answered out of San Jose.

I wish that we could be of more assistance, but unfortunately, we cannot provide you with any further information or guidance on this issue.

Regards,

 

Thomas Hayes

Vice Consul

American Citizens Services/Federal Benefits

Unidad de Asistencia a Ciudadanos Estadounidenses/Beneficios Federales

15 days to respond?  Are they serious?  That probably means never.

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1 hour ago, Bonnie said:

Mr. Hayes' response, above, directs all social security questions be directed to Costa Rica. You also may want to look at this website: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200205180

I'm sorry I can't help, but I read Mr. Hayes' letter--coupled with earlier correspondence--to say that the Wardens are not to become involved in any social security issues. Neither will the Embassy itself respond to any social security questions. Social Security matters are to be dealt with strictly by the Costa Rica embassy. On virtually all other issues, too, the wardens have been directed to send citizens to the U.S. Embassy in Panama rather than responding themselves.

What are wardens allowed to do?

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Nothing on our own, it appears, even if we know the answer and have experience with the same issue. However, we are to be at the beck and call of the Embassy should they need us for anything: to round up U.S. citizens (impossible) when Baru explodes, help someone hospitalized at Hospital Regional in David (in the absence of a David Warden), disseminate Embassy messages, etc.

One of my worries, and I expressed this to Mr. Hayes, is that those persons whose s.s. is cut off for failure to file the Proof of Life form are going to have a terrible time getting it reinstated through Costa Rica. The same for death benefits, widow benefits, etc. Having assumed these new duties, that office is facing significant delays in response time.

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3 hours ago, Bonnie said:

Nothing on our own, it appears, even if we know the answer and have experience with the same issue. However, we are to be at the beck and call of the Embassy should they need us for anything: to round up U.S. citizens (impossible) when Baru explodes, help someone hospitalized at Hospital Regional in David (in the absence of a David Warden), disseminate Embassy messages, etc.

One of my worries, and I expressed this to Mr. Hayes, is that those persons whose s.s. is cut off for failure to file the Proof of Life form are going to have a terrible time getting it reinstated through Costa Rica. The same for death benefits, widow benefits, etc. Having assumed these new duties, that office is facing significant delays in response time.

I too am concerned that people who are due death benefits and the services you and I got from SS in Panama will not happen for people now.  That 15 day response time tells you as much.

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Bonnie, have you received your long-awaited reply from CR regarding your situation, i.e. no POL in the mail yet for this year?  I have a friend who's checks "just stopped" and she's stumped and has emailed the US Emb in CR for help about a week ago...

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2 hours ago, BoqueteBug said:

Bonnie, have you received your long-awaited reply from CR regarding your situation, i.e. no POL in the mail yet for this year?  I have a friend who's checks "just stopped" and she's stumped and has emailed the US Emb in CR for help about a week ago...

I have not, and it's been three weeks. I will let everyone know if and when I hear something.

It's my understanding (and I may be wrong since no one will answer questions), that checks are stopped in February for those who did not file the required Proof of Life form. Something else may be going on here. If I were your friend, I would telephone SSA in Washington (1-800-772-1213) to try to get to the bottom of this. Keep a good book handy because there's likely to be a long wait. I advise calling early in the morning.

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Thank you Bonnie.  I will text her and see where she's at in the process.  I heard/read/was told the same thing, about February being the month of cutoff.  She said her checks have been stopped "for months" but didn't realize it!  Hmmmm, glad her portfolio is doing well so she didn't miss it!  

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Hi Bonnie,

Do you know if anyone is coming to Boquete or David this year (as they have in previous years - I believe the came to the library in Boquete in 2018) to assist with filing your Proof of Life forms?

Thank you,

Ricky Miller

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Posted (edited)

Ricky, I am no longer the CLV for the Embassy.The new CLVs, Denese Rodgers and George Chin, can be reached at clvboquete@gmail.com.

It was my experience that these community outreach meetings are announced only a couple of weeks ahead of time. Persons who are enrolled in the STEP program receive all Embassy messages, including those announcing community outreaches. Also, the CLVs generally announce the outreaches on two forums, including this one, and various community Facebook pages.

Edited by Bonnie

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