Expert's View

Reg Jones

I get questions from federal retirees who are thinking about living part time or full time overseas (it seems some have been watching those TV shows about living on next to nothing in a beach house somewhere in the Caribbean or South Pacific). According to the Congressional Research Service there were 30,060 federal retirees living in foreign countries.

Naturally, they want to know they can receive their CSRS or FERS retirement benefits if they live outside the United States or its territories and possessions. The general answer is yes. However, there are exceptions.

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You can’t receive those benefits if you live in one of the so-called “blocked” countries. Nor can you get them even if you set up an electronic fund transfer account outside that country. You’ll find a listing of these blocked countries and other sanctions at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/sanctions-programs-and-country-information. Don’t try to be clever and use intermediaries. Uncle Sam is watching.

To receive federal benefits while living abroad, it’s a good idea to have funds directly deposited into a bank account in your country of residence. And keep in mind you may be liable for taxes (See the IRS’s tax guide for US citizens and resident aliens abroad.)

Some important facts to consider for health benefits coverage from OPM:

– You should not be enrolled in an HMO unless your geographic location is specifically covered by it.

– See Section 7 of the plan brochure for information about filing an overseas claim.

– Most overseas providers require payment “up front”.

– Your plan may have an overseas second opinion arrangement where an e-opinion can be obtained from US medical providers for certain medical conditions/treatments.

– Some services that are “accepted practice” overseas are considered experimental or investigational by FEHB plans and are not covered.

– Some plans cover medical evacuation to the nearest hospital suited to provide treatment and the patient’s condition requires immediate evacuation.

– Prescription drugs may be available through a plan’s Mail Order Pharmacy benefit (sometimes you need to have an address with a Zip Code, such as an APO and FPO address or in US territories).

– You may be able to file a claim for prescription drugs you purchase overseas.

Federal retirees living abroad also may be eligible to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (See, Veterans Living Overseas), OPM, Department of Labor, and Railroad Retirement Board.

Next in this series, I’ll focus on the payment of Social Security benefits to those who have earned them, who can receive them, and under what conditions: Social Security and Medicare Benefits if You Live Outside the U.S.

See also:

The Most Common FERS Retirement Questions

The Most Common Questions About CSRS

Life Insurance: Most Common Questions on FEGLI

The Most Common Questions on FEHB

FERS Retirement Guide 2021