• In This Column •

* Categories *

* Agencies *

• Air Force Post Office (APO) •
(U.S. Embassy - EOB)

Hours:  Monday-Friday, 0900-1700
Registered Mail Pick Up:  0900-1400

Tel:  02-205-5646
APO Policy
JUSMAG Mailroom Policy

*  *  *
• U.S. Postal Service (USPS) •
USPS  |  First-Class Mail

[Bangkok Bank - Direct Deposit]
Bangkok Bank P.C.L.
Foreign Exchange Services Section
Retail Payment Services Department
333 Silom Rd.
Bangkok 10500 Thailand

Tel:  02-645-5555 (24/7)
Tel:  02-230-1323 (Direct Deposit)
Contact Us
Foreign Customers
Direct Deposit
New York Branch

DMDC Support Office
ATTN:  Change of Address
400 Gigling Rd.
Seaside, CA 93955-6771

Monday-Friday, 0500-1700 (PT)
Tel:  1-800-538-9522
Fax:  1-831-655-8317
DEERS Address Update

Defense Finance Accounting Service
U.S. Military Retirement Pay
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130

Monday-Friday, 0700-1930 (ET)
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or
Fax:  1-800-469-6559
Retired Military & Annuitants
Powers of Attorney & Guardianships

Defense Finance Accounting Service
U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
P.O. Box 7131
London, KY 40742-7131

Monday-Friday, 0700-1930 (ET)
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or
Fax:  1-800-982-8459
Retired Military & Annuitants
Powers of Attorney & Guardianships

Defense Finance Accounting Service
Cleveland Center
P.O. Box 998005
Cleveland, OH 44199-1126

Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or
Fax:  1-216-522-5898
(For Non-Receipt of Payment)

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
VA Regional Office, Rm. 1606
1000 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Mon-Tues-Thurs-Fri, 0700-1630 (ET) Wednesday, 0730-1130 (ET)
Tel:  1-412-395-6241
Fax:  1-412-395-3085
Email:  DAVForeign.vbapit@va.gov
Disabled American Veterans

• Forms & Publications •

• Forms •
DoD  |  DFAS  |  SSA  |  VA  |  .GOV

• Publications •
CFRs  |  DoD  |  SSA  |  VA

Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
ITIN Operation
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342

Tel:  1-800-829-1040 (General IRS Info)
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

• Legal Assistance •

• Locator - Service Personnel •
USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

• Medicare Part B •

*** Annual General Enrollment ***

If you didn't sign up for Part B (for which you pay monthly premiums) when you were first eligible, you can sign up during General Enrollment:

1 January - 31 March
(Late enrollment penalty may apply)

To Enroll:
Contact Social Security, Manila
Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723
Email:  FBU.Manila@ssa.gov

• Miscellaneous Resources •
National Resource Directory

• Department of Defense •
Defense.gov  |  Military OneSource

National Personnel Records Center
(Military Personnel Records)
1 Archives Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63138

Tel:  1-314-801-0800 or 1-866-272-6272
Fax:  1-314-801-9195
Email:  mpr.center@nara.gov
Status Check:  mpr.status@nara.gov
Military Personnel Records

Naval Ophthalmic Support &
Training Activity (NOSTRA)
160 Main Rd.
Naval Weapons Station, Bldg. 1794
Yorktown, VA 23691-9984

Tel:  1-757-887-7600
Fax:  1-757-887-4647
Retirees - How to Order

• Newsletters & News •
USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

VA  |  VA - Facebook
VAntage Blog  |  VAnguard

Office of Personnel Management
Retirement Operations Center
P.O. Box 45
Boyers, PA 16017

Tel:  1-888-767-6738
Email:  retiree@opm.gov
Retirement Information & Services

• Retiree Services •
USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

• Reserve Retirement •
USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

• Temporary Disability Retirement •
USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

Social Security Administration
United States Embassy
1201 Roxas Blvd.
Manila, Philippines 1000
- or -
Social Security Administration
Unit 8600, Box 1610
DPO AP 96515-1610

Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723
Email:  FBU.Manila@ssa.gov
SSA Manila

*  *  *
• Additional Information •
International Programs
Survivor Benefits

TRICARE Management Activity
Office of Program Integrity
16401 E. Centretech Pkwy.
Aurora, CO, 80011-9066

Tel:  N/A
Fax:  1-303-676-3981
Email:  fraudline@tma.osd.mil
TRICARE Fraud & Abuse

TRICARE Overseas Program
International SOS, Singapore

Telephone Customer Service:
Regional Direct:  +65-6339-2676
Toll Free:  0018004418952

TRICARE Overseas

*  *  *
Retiree Overseas Claims
Wisconsin Physicians Service (WPS)

Tel:  1-877-451-8659 (Toll Outside U.S.)
WPS Claims Address
WPS Customer Service Address

• TRICARE Reimbursement Checks •

U.S. Dollar vs. Thai Baht

If your claim reimbursement check is not in the correct currency you requested, YOU need to contact the TRICARE Overseas claims processor, Wisconsin Physicians Service, at its Customer Service address:

P.O. Box 7992
Madison, WI 53707-7992

Tel:  1-877-451-8659 (Toll Outside U.S.)

U.S. Embassy, Bangkok
Consular Section
95 Wireless Rd.
Bangkok 10330 Thailand

Tel:  02-205-4049
Fax:  02-205-4103
After Hours Emergency:  02-205-4000
Email:  acsbkk@state.gov
U.S. Citizen Services

U.S. Consulate General, Chiang Mai
Consular Section
387 Wichayanond Rd.
Chiang Mai 50300 Thailand

Tel:  05-310-7777
Fax:  05-325-2633
After Hrs Emergency:  081-881-1878 Email:  acschn@state.gov
U.S. Citizen Services

[Department of] Veterans Affairs
Regional Office
ATTN:  Foreign Team, Room 1514
1000 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4004

Tel:  1-412-395-6272
Fax:  1-412-395-6091
Fax:  1-412-395-6184 (Provider DBQs)
Tel:  1-800-827-1000 (General VA)
Email:  https://iris.custhelp.com/
Veterans Benefits Administration

*  *  *
• Additional Information •
VA Health Administration
GI Bill
Life Insurance
Additional Life Insurance Programs
Mental Health  |  Suicide Prevention
National Center for PTSD
Survivor Benefits

[Department of] Veterans Affairs
Debt Management Center
P.O. Box 11930
St. Paul, MN 55111

Mon-Fri, 0730-1215 &1245-1800 (CT)
Tel:  1-800-827-0648
Fax:  1-314-679-3615
Email:  dmc.ops@va.gov
VA Debt Management Center

VA Health Administration Center
P.O. Box 469028
Denver, CO 80246-9028

Tel:  1-800-733-8387
Fax:  1-303-331-7809
Click on the link immediately below, then click on “Chat”

VA Health Administration Center
Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
P.O. Box 469061
Denver, CO 80246-9061

Tel:  1-303-331-7590
Fax:  1-303-331-7807
Email:  hac.fmp@va.gov
VA Foreign Medical Program

VA Manila Outpatient Clinic
1501 Roxas Blvd.
Pasay City, Philippines 1302

Tel:  +63-2-318-8387 or +63-2-833-4566
Fax:  +63-2-310-5957
Email:  manlopc.inqry@vba.va.gov
VA Manila Outpatient Clinic

*  *  *
Department of Veterans Affairs
Manila Regional Office
1501 Roxas Blvd.
Pasay City, Philippines 1302

Tel:  +63-2-550-3888
Fax:  +63-2-550-3944
Manila VA Regional Office

VAROIC Philadelphia
Pension Management Center
5000 Wissahickon Ave.
P.O. Box 8079
Philadelphia, PA 19101

Monday-Friday, 0800-1630 (ET)
Tel:  1-877-294-6380
Fax:  1-215-381-3113 (Main)
Fax:  1-215-381-3777
(Only for VA 21-0845)

VA Records Management Center
P.O. Box 5020
St. Louis , MO 63115

Tel:  1-888-533-4558 or 1-888-533-4558
Fax:  1-314-679-3615
VA Records Management Center

* Items of Interest *

• 2014 Retired Pay Schedule •
DFAS Retired Pay

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Friday, January 31, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Friday, May 30, 2014
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
Wednesday, December 31, 2014

• Credit Bureaus •
Equifax  |  Experian  |  TransUnion

• Cremation & Repatriation of Ashes •
Teck Hong
Siam Funeral
John Allison Monkhouse

• HIV / AIDS - Anonynous Clinic •
Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic
1871 Rama 4 Rd.
Bangkok 10330 Thailand

Tel:  02-256-4109
Fax:  02-254-7577
Anonymous Clinic

• The Red Cross •
American  |  Thailand

• U.S. Gov't - Official Web Portal •
U.S. Military Personnel & Veterans

• Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) •
National  |  Pacific  |  District Five
Bangkok  |  Cambodia
 |  Chiang Mai
Korat  |  Pattaya  |  Udon Thani

*** Retiree Activities Office (RAO) ***
Bangkok, Thailand


Integrity    Service    Excellence

RAO Director:  Darrell Brown, MMC(SS) USNR (Ret)
Tel:  +66-(0)2-287-1036 Ext. 165
Fax:  +66-(0)2-285-6228
Email:  raothailand@jusmagthai.org

Follow Me on Twitter at RAOTHAILAND1


Street Address
APO Address
Retiree Activities Office (RAO)
7 Sathorn Tai Rd.
APO AP 96546-9998
Bangkok 10120 Thailand
• • •


*** RAO Client Service Hours ***

• Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday •

... 0930 to 1430 Hours ! ...

(Closed Thai & U.S. Holidays)


• Lengthy or Complicated Issues, Please Email or Call to make an Appointment •

Bldg. "D", Room D-114 (Turn LEFT after entering front gate)

* Retiree Activities Office (RAO) - Bangkok, Thailand *

Last Reviewed or Updated:  February 22 , 2016

(The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
of the information, products or services contained therein.)


• DEERS / DoD Military ID Card Station •

• Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday •

... 0800-1100 Hours ! ...

(Closed Thai & U.S. Holidays)

Location:  Bldg. "C", Room C-105 (Directly straight ahead towards back of compound after entering front gate) •

•  •  •

• DEERS / DoD Military ID Card Inquiries •

Email DEERS Section:  jusmagthai@state.gov

Telephone:  02-287-1036 Ext. 180 / 181 (Not Voicemail Capable)

Note:  TRICARE Eligibility Inquiries Must Be Made In-Person •


• RAO Location & Hours •

• Location:  Bldg. "D", Room D-114 (Turn LEFT after entering front gate) •

• Client Service HoursTuesday - Wednesday - Thursday, 0930-1430 Hours •

"By making the personal choice to reside outside of the United States it is our individual responsibility to study and to understand the effects of that choice, notably regarding access to health care, and to Federal/State/Local assistance."

• RAO Mission •

1.  Our Mission.  The Retiree Activities Office (RAO) at JUSMAGTHAI, Bangkok, Thailand provides assistance to U.S. Military Retirees retired for longevity or medically retired (all branches of service) residing in Thailand, and Active Duty service members in Thailand about to retire, including eligible family members of the above.  The RAO mission is to: 1) Serve as an interface between the active duty and retired communities; 2) Keep retirees informed on various matters; 3) Provide information and services as necessary or appropriate, and; 4) To represent retired members at the base and Air Force level.

2.  This RAO is an official U.S. Air Force activity staffed mostly by retired U.S. military volunteers.  We expect you to be Courteous and Truthful in your interaction with us--we, of course, will do the same.  Please Note:  While each day is busy for us, the first two weeks of each month are especially busy due to beneficiary pay problems.  Due to our workload we prefer contact via email, but if you do phone please do so after 1300 Hours (after the morning rush of clients), else your call will go unanswered while we're helping clients.

3.  If you're a U.S. Military Retiree residing full-time in Thailand and would like to periodically receive via email information about benefits and privileges, please register with the RAO by completing a Registration Sheet (mail or hand deliver to the RAO--do NOT email it), or update your email address if you're already registered with us.  Due to computer security concerns, Registration Sheets that are emailed will be ignored.  If you mail it be sure to include your Social Security Number so JUSMAG can confirm in DEERS your status as a U.S. Military Retiree.

4.  General*Thank You* to the Chief, JUSMAGTHAI who authorizes this RAO and webpage, and to Khun Eddy who expertly manages the many technical aspects of our webpage.  This page provides general information on U.S. Federal Benefits, Entitlements, and Privileges available to you in Thailand.  To better serve you, our expectation is for able beneficiaries to first read the information that interests you.  Subject familiarity greatly aids discussion and assistance.

RAO Volunteers

1.  RAO Volunteer Request.  Being that this RAO functions similar to a Retirement Services Office (RSO), we have a greater need for highly capable, dedicated, and dependable volunteers.  Since none of the typical U.S. Federal benefits agencies have a presence in Thailand, the RAO has historically tried to fill some of the void by facilitating between beneficiaries and the respective federal agency--volunteer credibility and continuity is central to this effort. 

2.  In the U.S. an RAO volunteer is often able to help someone simply by picking up the telephone and phoning an agency during normal client service hours.  With the exception of being able to phone the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Manila, telephoning the U.S. must be performed nighttime in Thailand.  Therefore, an issue that may easily be resolved with a simple telephone call in the U.S. or a visit by a beneficiary to an agency's local office, here in Thailand resolution typically requires one or more letters, faxes, emails, and/or nighttime calls, all the while managing acute cultural and lingual differences--all time consuming and requiring volunteerism that exceeds an RAO standard of 3-4 hours per week.  The RAO is a privilege that exists for retirees and their eligible dependents--the doors stay open and the lights stay on only when good people step-up to volunteer.

3.  RAOs function to provide assistance to the retiree community and can only do so through the volunteer spirit and with credible, dependable volunteers.  This RAO is almost always in need of a Casualty Assistance Officer and Benefits Advisor. The Casualty Assistance Officer can enjoy flex-time--use an appointment system to manage their time, and come into the office when needed.  Both positions require solid integrity, reliability, patience and understanding, strong listening skills, self-motivation, attention-to-detail, strong computer skills, and a positive outlook!  RAO history has proven that volunteers MUST be able to work well with others--team disharmony is not an option, therefore, new candidates only, please.  For an upright military retiree, volunteering is a win-win for all.  Please consider helping your fellow retiree!

• Rules of Engagement •

• Integrity, Privacy & Professionalism •

1.  Foreword.  Due to the high number of visitors, emails, and phone calls to the RAO, we must set and manage two-way expectations. Even though the RAO is a volunteer run organization, the RAO is still an official U.S. Government (USG) office, therefore, RAO staff and clients must adhere to professional standards and expectations.

2.  Integrity.  An integral part of our duties and responsibilities includes being good stewards with U.S. taxpayer dollars.  Be advised and forewarned that we will not knowingly help applicants file false claims!  Any attempts to intentionally file a false application or claim to defraud the USG (e.g., *Conspiracy to Commit Fraud* or *Fraudulent Conveyance*) will immediately terminate assistance from our office, and your name being forwarded to the Chief, JUSMAGTHAI, and to the USG federal agencies involved.  Full disclosure is the only lawfully-acceptable method.

3.  Courtesy and Respect.  We routinely handle a large amount of Privacy Act information that is protected by law, and plainly speaking, is none of anyone else’s business.  Therefore, please show us, and any clients ahead of you in the queue, the proper respect and courtesy by not barging into any of our offices nor interrupting when we’re assisting clients--whether or not a client is sitting in front of us.  Don't assume that because a client isn't currently sitting in front of us, that we aren't fully engaged in assistance to them.  We will assist you as soon as we are finished with the task at hand, and in queue order.  It is our professional promise that we will take every reasonable precaution possible to respect and safeguard the privacy and dignity of all clients.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

4.  Privacy Act and Release of Information.  Beneficiary information is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974 (amended) and medical information is further protected by The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.  By law, we are only authorized to release limited information.  Further release of information may only be authorized by the beneficiary. For Example:  We sometimes need to share information with a Veterans Service Organization (such as the DAV) to aid the benefits process, but only if authorized to do so by the beneficiary.

5.  Third-Party Helpers.  If anyone (other than RAO staff) claims that they can *help* you with the RAO--they most definitely cannot--unless RAO staff agrees to the third-party involvement.  For example, so-called notarized letters of agreement between a claimant and a third-party helper, or even legal representation, has no official status in the RAO.  RAO staff at all times retains decision authority on extending client assistance.  In most cases, extending assistance is trouble-free. Nonetheless, as in all organizations that see a large number of clients, the RAO occasionally encounters less-than-honorable persons, and has responded accordingly.

Emailing, Telephoning & Visiting

6.  Emailing the RAO.  We welcome your emails, and due to the large volume of emails we receive weekly--and to help us efficiently use our volunteer time--we simply ask you to keep your emails *Professional, Official, and Constructive*.  Please be brief, clear, and to the point; absolutely NO racial slurs or rude/abusive/vulgar language; no pen pal chit-chat or jokes; no anti-policy rants/complaints; no CAPWIZ or legislative updates (unless a particular bill was signed into law--we do welcome those); NO political comments (U.S. or Thai), and please; DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS (*ALL CAPS* is difficult to read and will be ignored).  Only ONE policy reminder is normally given before repeat offender's names and email addresses are removed from our email list and added to the RAO's *Blocked Senders* email filter.  Lastly, certain unprofessional persons will not receive a policy reminder, and instead, will immediately be removed from our email list.  Thank you for your cooperation.

7.  Telephoning the RAO.  We welcome your calls, just please note that telephone calls go unanswered when we’re busy assisting clients.  While we prefer email contact, if you do phone, the best option is to phone our office after 1300 hours, as we are usually busy in the morning.  Also, please keep your phone calls professional and constructive; brief, clear, and to the point; background noise to a minimum, and; please don't shout--RAO staff end phone calls when calls become unproductive. Thank You!  (Please don't leave voicemail--our phones are unable to visually alert us to waiting messages.)

8.  *Indoor Voice* in the RAO. Please refrain from speaking in a loud voice in the RAO.  Loud voices are disruptive to RAO clients and staff, and to our dental office neighbors behind the partition in the library.  Please be respectful of those around you, and plan your visits (and phone calls) to the RAO accordingly. Thank You!

• Information Accuracy •

1.  This webpage primarily contains and supplements official U.S. Government (USG) sources and information (which is always subject to change).  If you believe information on this webpage conflicts with other official USG sources, please contact us for clarification.  If you act on unofficial information you do so at your own risk.  Please also let us know if you discover a web link that is no longer working, or if we've failed to give a source proper credit for something we've used. Lastly, this webpage is designed to present basic topical information to help you get started with your search for facts and data on specific subjects.  It isn't designed to copy everything posted on the internet. :)

2.  RAO staff historically has had to correct misinformation that sometimes spreads through the military retiree community. The usual instigators are *know-it-alls* who mistakenly believe they’re always correct, and there are also those persons who are probably well-intended but they too are incorrect.  Due to the internet and social media the spread of misinformation is now faster and more widespread.  Again, seek clarity.  If it's a complicated issue contact the respective federal agency directly.

• Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Thailand •

• Professional Conduct •

1.  JUSMAGTHAI is a Thai Military Facility located in central Bangkok at the corner of Sathorn Rd. and Sathorn Soi 1.  Entry into JUSMAG, and the services available to the retiree community while at JUSMAG, is a privilege.  Being that JUSMAG routinely hosts U.S. and Thai General/Flag Officers, and other visiting U.S. and Thai military, and civilian dignitaries, please show our hosts the proper respect and courtesy by conducting yourself in a professional manner when visiting JUSMAG--this also includes you being personally responsible for the actions of your dependents and guests.  If bringing a vehicle into JUSMAG please only park in designated visitor parking, and also be aware of the stray cats walking and lying about. JUSMAG Staff Contact Email:  jusmagthai@state.gov

• DEERS & DoD Military ID Cards •

JUSMAGTHAI - Joint Support Section
Location:  Bldg. "C", Room C-105
Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO)
DEERS Hours:  Tues-Wed-Thurs, 0800-1100 Hours
400 Gigling Rd.
(Appointments Not Accepted - Please Plan Accordingly)
Seaside, CA 93955-6771
Tel:  1-800-538-9522
Telephone:  02-287-1036 Ext. 180 / 181
Fax:  1-831-655-8317
(Note:  These Ext. #s are Not Voicemail Capable)
*** Closed U.S. & Thai Holidays ***

2.  Department of Defense ID Card Issuance Process.  The Department of Defense (DoD) is committed to protecting the security of our nation and its people by issuing identification (ID) cards to individuals requiring access to government systems and facilities.  The DoD ID card issuance process consists of several steps to ensure the correct ID card is issued and the appropriate benefits and privileges are assigned.  An important step is the verification of a customer's identity by reviewing the two required forms of identification and their information in the Defense Enrollment and Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).  When you report to a DoD ID Card issuing facility, the card issuer, called a Verifying Official (VO), will ask the customer to present an existing DoD ID card, if available, as well as other identity documentation as an added layer of security.  In verifying the authenticity of required documents before issuing a DoD ID card, the VO has an important responsibility to prevent fraud and protect the security of our nation.

3.  Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).  DEERS Record Updates and DoD Military ID Cards.  Although JUSMAGTHAI is an authorized DEERS/RAPIDS site, resources are limited to internet connectivity and the main stateside DEERS/RAPIDS Server, and to availability of ID card stock on hand.  JUSMAG is not authorized to “set aside” any ID cards for personnel who may be traveling here, and are not authorized to access the system outside the hours established with DEERS/RAPIDS.

       a.  DEERS Location.  The DEERS / DoD Military ID Card Station is located in room C-105.  Turn right after entering the main gate, walk under the building overhang, turn left at the blue color U.S. mailbox, then keep straight ahead until end (back of compound), go left and room C-105 will be on your right hand side.

        b.  DEERS Availability.  Since the DEERS system sometimes unexpectedly *goes down* it's best to phone ahead to 02-287-1036 Ext. 180 (or 181) before you travel to JUSMAG.  Likewise, due to system irregularities it's best to give yourself two days in Bangkok (should the system be down that day).  As well, sometimes the system takes time to connect with DEERS/RAPIDS so please try to give yourself 30-60 minutes for processing.  Moreover, if the DEERS system at JUSMAG is known or estimated to be unavailable for more than a couple of days, contact the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO) (DEERS) in California (info above) with your questions concerning DEERS record updates, such as registering new dependents in DEERS.  Also see the TRICARE Overseas section (paragraph 16c) on this webpage concerning TRICARE claims filing for a new dependent not yet registered in DEERS.  Lastly, please be advised that the primary duties of the Joint Support staff often take them away from their desks, therefore, phone calls to them sometimes go unanswered.

        c.  DoD Military ID Card Basics.  Retiree DoD ID cards (blue color DD-2) issued before December 1, 2012 do not expire. However, Retiree ID cards issued after November 30, 2012 do have an expiration date on the front of the card (please see paragraph 5 below).  Dependent DoD ID cards may be renewed up to 30 days prior to the card's expiration (sponsor normally must accompany their spouse when renewing the dependent spouse's tan color DD-1173).  Note:  If you recently enrolled in Medicare Part B, ensure Part B is reflected in your DEERS record before you renew your ID card (automatic weapons can fail--so too can Medicare’s action to notify the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO) (DEERS) of the beneficiary’s Part B enrollment).  Bring your current DoD ID card and two additional photo IDs, and any documentation (original or certified copy, not a photocopy) pertinent to your visit.  ReadDocuments Required for Issuance of DoD ID Cards (and read the paragraphs below).  All foreign language documents require certified English translation (no exceptions).  Note:  Photos are taken digitally--there's no need to bring a photo.

        d.  Sponsors Must Accompany Their Dependents.  Dependents requesting a service from the JUSMAGTHAI DEERS section, such as renewing a DoD ID card, TRICARE eligibility inquiries, etc., must be accompanied by their [still living] military sponsor.  Dependents requesting a service without their military sponsor present will be advised to return with their military sponsor.  Clearly, this applies only to dependents with sponsors that are still living.  Sponsors wishing to update/renew/first issue a Dependent ID Card are required to be with their Dependent at the time of issue.  The sponsor will need to bring one additional non-expired government-issued photo ID in addition to their DoD military ID.

         e.  TRICARE Eligibility Inquiries.  *** MUST BE MADE IN-PERSON ***  No exceptions!  Requests for TRICARE eligibility verification via email, phone, fax, or mail to the JUSMAGTHAI DEERS section, cannot be honored.  This policy is part of DoD's overall fraud prevention efforts.  To verify your TRICARE eligibility you may also do so online via milConnect, TRICARE Overseas, or by Phone, Fax or Mail to the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO) (DEERS) in California.  (Please also see paragraph 5b below).

4.  The Two Most Frequently Asked DEERS Questions Are:

        a.  "What do I need to bring to renew my DoD ID card?"  For U.S. Uniformed Services ID card renewals, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directives require two pieces of government-issued identification:  Documents Required for Issuance of DoD ID Cards.  Firstly, to renew a DoD ID card you must bring your current DoD ID card.  In addition to your DoD ID card, bring two non-expired forms of government-issued photo ID.  Passport and drivers license are fine, just know that JUSMAGTHAI DEERS personnel cannot use the CAC card, Retiree ID card, or Dependent ID card as one of the two forms of ID that need to be scanned into DEERS/RAPIDS--the two forms of ID must have a picture and must not be expired. These rules apply to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.  If you no longer have your current DoD ID card you must also file/obtain a police report before a replacement DoD ID card can be issued--foreign language police reports require certified English translation (no exceptions).

         b.  "I just got married so what do we need to bring to get my spouse a DoD ID card?"  First time dependents will need the original marriage certificate, and if the marriage certificate is not in English, a certified English translation copy with original stamps from the company that did the translation--photocopies of the translation will not suffice; it must have the original certifier's stamp.  Your (the sponsor's) current DoD ID card and one additional sponsor non-expired government-issued photo ID.  Your new spouse must also bring two pieces of non-expired government-issued photo ID (Thai, U.S., or other nation).  In addition, original (or certified copy) Final Divorce Decree(s) (sponsor and/or spouse; as applicable).  Foreign language documents require certified English translation (no exceptions).

             • Important Note:  Marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and birth certificates must be certified originals, court-certified copies, or certified photocopies that reflect the file number.  Verifying officials may request additional documents if validity of documents provided is in question.  (AFI 36-3026_IP, Volume 1; Ch. 2, para. 2.4.1, p. 48).

5.  Age 65 Renewal of Retiree DoD ID Card (or earlier if End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or SSA-disabled).  This subject historically has been vague and a bit confusing, and the RAO at different times has been advised differently by official sources.  Bottom line:  Retiree ID cards (blue color DD-2) issued before December 1, 2012 do not expire, they are *INDEF* (Indefinite), however, the information listed on the back of the DD-2 concerning TRICARE eligibility, contains an expiration date--which normally is the last day of the month prior to the retiree's (or dependent's) 65th birthday.  UPDATE:  Retiree ID cards issued after November 30, 2012 do have an expiration date on the front of the card and require replacement.  For more information please read the Air Force News Story (1/31/2013):  Retiree ID Cards Now Have Expiration Dates.

        a.  Age 65 is when most military retirees (and their dependents) first become eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A, and as a result, must enroll in Medicare Part B if they wish to remain TRICARE eligible (TRICARE For Life (TFL)).  Therefore, when a retiree enrolls in Medicare Part B, they may or may not be required to renew their DoD ID card--if the card was issued before December 1, 2012 it isn't required to be renewed.  However, if the retiree DoD ID card was issued after November 30, 2012 a replacement card will be needed.  Concerning retiree DoD ID cards issued before December 1, 2012 it may be in your best interest to renew your retiree DD-2 after you enroll in Medicare Part B and after Part B is reflected in your DEERS record.  For instance, some Military Treatment Facilities have reportedly confiscated retiree ID cards that have not been renewed to show TFL eligibility--they do this as a means to *force* you to renew your DD-2.

       b.  When the member enrolls in Medicare Part B, Medicare [normally] notifies DSO (DEERS) that Part B has been obtained.  Therefore, a retiree DoD ID card issued before December 1, 2012 does not have to be renewed simply because of this date, but may be renewed if the member desires.  Other Consideration: Concerning the ongoing removal of social security numbers from DoD ID cards (through attrition), you may wish to use your enrollment in Medicare Part B as a valid reason to renew your retiree DD-2.  Lastly, to verify that DSO (DEERS) has received your Medicare Part B enrollment, you can check milConnect, TRICARE Overseas, or by Phone, Fax or Mail to DSO (DEERS) in California (a few weeks after the first day of your birth month), or visit the nearest DoD ID card issuing facility (JUSMAGTHAI is the only facility in Thailand).

6.  *** Keep Your DEERS Records Up To Date! ***  Life events such as moving, marriage, divorce, death, or simply having a child go off to college are milestones in family lives that require DEERS updates.  Keeping your DEERS records current means uninterrupted receipt of your retirement pay, access to the TRICARE health system, and it also ensures that important TRICARE-related health care documents are delivered to the sponsor and their family members at the correct address and on time.  Mistakes and outdated information in DEERS has caused pay problems, and caused TRICARE claims delay and denial.  For simple address changes, you can update your DEERS address via several methods:  In-person at JUSMAGTHAI; Online at DEERS Address Update or milConnect; or by Phone, Fax or Mail to DSO (DEERS) in California. 

        a.  *** Important Note ***  Updating your DEERS record does not update your information with DFAS, and updating your information with DFAS does not update your DEERS record--you must separately update your DEERS and DFAS records. Retirees can also change bank and mailing addresses in myPay.

7.  Honorably “Discharged” Veterans Rated 100-Percent Disabled by the DVA (Ch. 24, para. 24.2, p. 181).  Honorably discharged veterans who are not entitled to retired pay, and rated 100-percent disabled from a Uniformed Service-connected injury or disease are entitled to a DD Form 2765 with eligibility to commissary, exchange and MWR privileges ONLY.  See the above reference, and see Sample Letter (Attachment 21, p. 313).

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) •
Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office
Defense Finance & Accounting Service
ATTN:  Change of Address
U.S. Military Retirement Pay
400 Gigling Rd.
P.O. Box 7130
Seaside, CA 93955-6771
London, KY 40742-7130
Tel:  1-800-538-9522
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or 1-216-522-5955
Fax:  1-831-655-8317
Fax:  1-800-469-6559

• Mailroom & APO •

Air Force Post Office (APO)
Location:  Bldg. "C", Room C-109
Location:  Old U.S. Embassy Compound (aka *EOB*)
Hours:  Monday-Friday, 1030-1200 & 1300-1600 Hours
Hours:  Monday-Friday, 0900-1700 Hours
(May Phone After 1300 Hours - Ext. 168)
Registered Mail Pick Up:  Monday-Friday, 0900-1400 Hours
Pick Up Mail at Least Once Every 30 Days
Telephone:  02-205-5646
Keep Your Locator Information Up-to-Date
*** Closed U.S. & Thai Holidays ***
*** Closed U.S. & Thai Holidays ***

Department of Defense (DoD) Policy

DoD Postal Manual (Appendix 1, AP1.3.14. Service for Retired Military Personnel (p. 342))

*** Important Notice ***
• Non-retiree veterans (not retired for longevity or medically retired) are not authorized APO/FPO privileges •

8.  JUSMAGTHAI Mailroom (Policy Memo).  The JUSMAGTHAI Mailroom is open to U.S. Military Retirees, Gray-Area Retirees at age 60, and eligible unremarried surviving spouses who have a *Box-R* APO box at JUSMAG.  If you don't have a Box-R at JUSMAG you may still use the APO (see paragraph 9 below).  To sign up for a *Box-R* mail box, U.S. military retirees must have and show in-person a valid blue color *Retired* DoD ID card (DD-2) and complete a locator card.  Eligible unremarried surviving spouses of military retirees must have and show a valid tan color DoD ID card (DD-1173).  Military retiree APO privileges are limited to personal / private use ONLY, and DO NOT include any type of work, business, or other commercial-related use.  APO privileges for U.S. military retirees are strictly a privilege, not a right.

       a.  Minimal Services.  Contrary to urban legend, the JUSMAGTHAI Mailroom does not sell U.S. (or Thai) postage stamps (and neither does the RAO).  U.S. postage stamps are available for purchase at the APO (*EOB* compound on Wireless Rd.). For registered mail pick up, visit the APO before 1400 hours.  Please see APO information in paragraph 8 below.

       b.  Courtesy and Respect.  Please be courteous and respectful with the mailroom staff at JUSMAGTHAI and the U.S. Consulate General (Chiang Mai), and to APO staff.  Mailroom and APO staff don't create DoD policy, but it's their professional duty to abide by and enforce it.  Note:  The APO in the Old U.S. Embassy Compound (Bangkok), and the mailroom at the U.S. Consulate General (Chiang Mai), are not part of JUSMAG--they each have their own separate and distinct chain-of-command.

9.  Air Force Post Office (APO) (Policy Memo).  Old U.S. Embassy Compound, Wireless Rd., Bangkok.  Use of the military postal service (APO/FPO) is open to U.S. Military Retirees, Gray-Area Retirees at age 60, and eligible unremarried surviving spouses (residing in or visiting Thailand).  To purchase U.S. postage stamps, and for other U.S. postal services, payment is by U.S. currency or check only (Thai Baht and credit cards are not accepted).  When you visit the APO you'll need your DoD ID card at the APO so leave another form of USG-issued photo identification at the Security Checkpoint.  Note:  When visiting the APO in the morning, U.S. Embassy security staff will not permit you entry into the compound until the APO opens at 0900 Hours.  The APO is adjacent to (east of) the Embassy's consular section.

Retiree Entry Badge

10.  JUSMAGTHAI Retiree Entry Badge.  A JUSMAG Compound Entry Badge is available for Retirees.  An entry badge is optional and not mandatory.  The badge is designed to facilitate entry into the compound by not having to do an ID-badge exchange.  If you're still carrying an old school ('non-white') entry badge--especially one that has become delaminated--stop in to get issued a new badge, currently white-colored.  Bring your current DoD ID card to Joint Support Section, Rm C-105. 

• TRICARE Office •

11.  JUSMAGTHAI TRICARE.  The JUSMAGTHAI TRICARE office is not chartered or funded to assist the retiree community, and does so strictly as a courtesy, duties permitting, and only when TRICARE Overseas (International SOS, Singapore) is unable to answer your query.  If International SOS is unable to directly answer your pertinent TRICARE questions they will refer you to the office that can.

• TRICARE Overseas - International SOS (Singapore) •
• Wisconsin Physicians Service (Claims) •
Telephone:  1-877-451-8659 (Toll Outside U.S.)
Telephone Customer Service Regional Direct:  +65-6339-2676
Telephone Customer Service Toll Free:  0018004418952
• • •

        a.  Please give the TRICARE Representatives the professional courtesy and respect they've earned and deserve.  They don't create policy, but it's their professional duty to abide by and enforce it.  If you have a legitimate need to seek assistance from the JUSMAGTHAI TRICARE staff, bring your current DoD ID card and all documents pertinent to your visit. In most cases it's YOUR personal responsibility to assemble and complete YOUR own paperwork, make YOUR own copies (TRICARE and RAO staff don't make copies), and promptly leave the office when you've been assisted--be considerate. Limited service hours for retirees and eligible retiree dependents are:  Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, 0800-1100.  Please respect their schedule.  (Bldg. "J", Rm. J-202).

*** Important Reminder ***
• JUSMAGTHAI TRICARE staff are not authorized access to DEERS •

        b.  Verify TRICARE Eligibility.  To verify your TRICARE eligibility you can check your DEERS account in milConnect, TRICARE Overseas, or by Phone, Fax or Mail to DSO (DEERS) in California, or visit the nearest DoD ID card issuing facility (JUSMAGTHAI is the only such facility in Thailand).  (Note:  JUSMAGTHAI is not authorized to verify TRICARE eligibility by email, phone, fax, or mail -- verification is done in-person only).

         c.  *** Important Note! ***  TRICARE staff (worldwide) do not approve or deny--nor cannot change--a patient's TRICARE eligibility.  DEERS is the only official source for TRICARE eligibility and access to TRICARE benefits.  Therefore, if you believe your TRICARE eligibility status in DEERS may be in error, it is your personal responsibility to contact the DMDC Support Office (DSO) (DEERS) in California for resolution--sooner rather than later is best.  (Note:  DSO manages DEERS).

• Notary Stamp •

12.  Notary Stamp.  The JUSMAGTHAI Adjutant currently provides a no-fee Notary Stamp service (duties permitting); just be advised that, as before, the notary stamp (it's a *stamp*, not a seal) is derived from U.S. Army authority and may or may not be accepted outside of the Department of Defense, especially if those documents are used in legal proceedings--the burden of determining acceptance rests solely with the person requesting notarization.  Further, if your document requires the presence of witnesses in addition to notarization, you must supply those witnesses.  Also, do not sign any documents until instructed to do so by the Adjutant.  Lastly, the Adjutant doesn't notarize income affidavits--you must visit the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General for a notarized income affidavit.  If you desire notarization, please first visit the JUSMAG Joint Support section (aka *Admin*)--the same helpful folks that issue DoD ID cards--and tell them the purpose of your visit.  They will direct you to the correct office.  Remember, JUSMAG provides this service strictly as a courtesy.

       a.  Note:  U.S. Citizen Services (ACS), U.S. Embassy, Bangkok & U.S. Consulate, Chiang Mai, provide a fee-based Notary Service ($50 per embossed seal).  U.S. Embassy:  Notary Services  |  U.S. Consulate General:  Notary Services.

• No Staff Judge Advocate •

13.  Staff Judge Advocate (SJA).  JUSMAG does not have an SJA on staff, and hence, is unable to help prepare a Power of Attorney (paragraph 5, next section), Living Will, or a Last Will & Testament.  You may consult an attorney or visit one of several online *free legal forms* websites and have your document(s) notarized (seal) at the U.S. Embassy / U.S. Consulate General, or roll the dice with a JUSMAG Army-derived Notary Stamp.  U.S. Embassy:  Attorney List  |  U.S. Consulate: Attorney List.

No Commissary & No BX / PX / NEX

14.  Commissary & Exchange.  *** None in Thailand ***  The nearest facility is a small NEX in Singapore at PSA Sembawang.

No MWR Tickets & Tours Office

15.  MWR Tickets & Tours Office.  *** None in Thailand ***  The nearest MWR facility is in Singapore at PSA Sembawang.

No U.S. Military Lodging

16.  Military Lodging.  *** None in Thailand ***  The nearest U.S. military lodging facility is in Singapore at PSA Sembawang.

No Space-A Flights

17.  Space-A.  *** None in Thailand ***  The nearest Space-A is in Singapore.  Visit our Space-A section for more information.

More Services

18.  More Services & Hours of Operation:

  • Aderholt's Annex.  Monday-Friday, 1530-2230.  Drinks, bar food, dart boards, pool tables, TV.  (Rm. A-104, Ext. 151).
  • Barbershop.  Monday-Friday, 0730-1530.  A good haircut at a reasonable price!  (Rm. C-128, Ext. 169).
  • Cafeteria.  Monday-Friday, 0600-1500 (Breakfast Served 0600-1100).  Kitchen Closes 1400.  (Rm. B-120, Ext. 150).
  • Dental Services.  Monday & Wednesday, 0700-1700 + Tuesday & Thursday, 0700-1600.  Friday, as-needed. JUSMAGTHAI has one of the best Dental Clinics in Thailand.  They can schedule Regular Check-ups, Cleanings, Fillings, Crown and Bridge work, or a Root Canal.  Payment up front (THB or USD, cash or check only) is required for Retirees, Gray-Area Retirees, DAVPRM, DAVTMP, and their eligible dependents, or eligible survivors.  Pricing comparable with local market professional dental services.  For more information on available services and/or to make an appointment, please Email:  acsadental@state.gov, or Telephone:  02-205-4134.  (Rm. D-110).
  • Fitness Center.  Monday-Friday, 0500-2100 (Rm. G-104).
  • Tailor (Amrapur Tailors).  Monday-Friday, 1000-1700 & Saturday, 1000-1400.  If you're looking for a Tailor, JUSMAGTHAI has specialists in U.S. Forces Uniforms (customer-supplied material), Pure Blended Cashmere, Lambs Wool, Terylene Sharkskin, Herring Bone, Mohair and Silk Hong Kong Brocade Beaded Sweaters, etc.  Email Amrapur Tailors:  amrapurthailand@yahoo.co.in or amrapurtailors@hotmail.com  |  Cell:  081-343-3930 or 089-456-7251 (from outside Thailand dial:  +66-8x-xxx-xxxx).  (Rm. C-127).
• Benefits & Entitlements at a Glance •

• Introduction •

1.  Introduction.  The information on this webpage is only a snapshot of certain benefits and entitlements, and is designed to give you a starting point in your quest for knowledge.  For detailed, expert information contact the respective U.S. Federal Agency.  Would you like to know the current value of your benefit in Thai Baht?  Visit:  OANDA Currency Converter.

Benefits Discussion

2.  Benefits Discussion.  Frankly speaking, benefits information posted in local internet forums and on certain unofficial webpages in Thailand is quite often flat-wrong!  RAO staff invites U.S. military retirees to visit the RAO for an initial (or refresher) benefits and privileges discussion.  If you've recently retired, newly arrived to Thailand, or just simply have never visited the RAO for a benefits discussion, a visit to the RAO may yield information useful to you, and to your loved ones. Note:  Discussing Survivor Benefits requires discussing any/all current and previous marriages, therefore, you may wish to plan your visit accordingly (e.g., accompanied or unaccompanied).

• U.S. Military Service Record Request •

3.  Veterans’ Military Service Record Request.  Military personnel records can be used for proving military service, or as a valuable tool in genealogical research.  Most veterans and their Next-of-Kin can obtain free copies of their DD Form 214 (Report of Separation), and other military and medical records.  Veterans' Medical and Health Records.

• Correction of U.S. Military Service Records •

4.  Correcting Military Service Records.  The National Archives only stores Military Service Records – they cannot make changes or corrections to these records or to your discharge status.  You will need to apply to the review board for your respective service branch for corrections or changes:  DoD  |  DFAS  |  USA  |  USAF  |  USN  |  USMC  |  USCG.

• Power of Attorney •

5.  Power of Attorney (POA).  A Power of Attorney (Specific or General) allows you to designate someone to take legal action on your behalf.  For Example:  If you're already experiencing medical distress, establishing a *Specific POA* (or even Guardianship) now before you're physically or mentally incapacitated can help ensure your benefits continue uninterrupted should your medical condition(s) worsen.  Blank Power of Attorney forms are available online from the U.S. Embassy here, or U.S. Consulate General here.  Or, you may use one supplied to you by your attorney, bank, or company, or visit one of several online *free legal forms* websites and have your document(s) notarized (seal) at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, or roll the dice with a JUSMAG Army-derived Notary Stamp (paragraph 12, previous section).  Remember, do not sign a POA until instructed to do so by the Notary.  U.S. Embassy:  Notary Services  |  U.S. Consulate General:  Notary Services.  (Note: JUSMAG does not have a Staff Judge Advocate on staff, and hence, is unable to assist with preparing a Power of Attorney).

• Beneficiary Pay •

6.  Beneficiary Pay.  Be it retired pay from DFAS, SSA retirement benefits, VA disability compensation, survivor benefits, etc., if your pay stops, contact your bank (direct deposit) and/or source agency immediately.  Government (and private) agencies want to be contacted by the beneficiary, yet the RAO is often asked (and sometimes immaturely *told*) to "Contact ______ and tell them to fix my pay."  (Tip:  If you're thinking about *telling* us to do something ... let's just say that dog won't hunt).  If you're able-bodied and able-minded, why needlessly try to place the RAO in the middle?  Why ask to add time and bureaucratic inertia to resolving your issue--an issue that you can fix much easier and faster by yourself?  Most of the time YOU directly contacting the agency brings far swifter resolution, often immediate.  Moreover, trying to tell us that "1-800 numbers don't work from Thailand", simply isn't true.  U.S. Toll Free numbers can be dialed from Thailand, no problem--you pay the international toll rate.  Be proactive, it's your benefit.

       a.  Pay suspension can occur for numerous reasons:  1) Retired Pay - Sponsors not updating their DFAS record in decades; 2) Not returning on time (or at all) an annual (or other) certification form (different benefits name it differently); 3) Correspondence being returned as undeliverable (DFAS, OPM, SSA, and VA), and; 4) SBP - Expired dependent DoD ID card (an expired ID card also negatively effects a dependent's TRICARE eligibility).  Once your pay stops expect a minimum of three months for it to restart--we've seen it take nine and ten months, respectively, for two beneficiaries.  Do you have sufficient financial reserves on-hand for daily necessities and medical care if your pay is interrupted?

        b.  Yes, sometimes beneficiaries do need additional assistance if pay is suspended.  No problem!  That's one of the reasons why we volunteer.  For Example:  When DFAS has doubts about your existence, DFAS sometimes will request an official letter attesting to your identity and status.  We have that letter in the RAO--in addition to your existing DoD ID card you'll have to show us two (2) current (non-expired) pieces of U.S. and/or Thai Government-issued Photo Identification. Remember, updating your DEERS record does not update your pay record at DFAS, and updating your DFAS record does not update your record in DEERS--you must separately update your DEERS and DFAS records.

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service •

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) •
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or 1-216-522-5955
Defense Finance & Accounting Service
Fax:  1-800-469-6559
U.S. Military Retirement Pay
Email:  Ask DFAS
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130

7.  Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) (Retirement & Annuitant).  Updating your personal data in DEERS does not update your pay record at DFAS, and updating your DFAS record does not update your record in DEERS--you must update your DFAS and DEERS records separately.  It's solely your responsibility to keep your personal data up-to-date. Retirees can also change bank and mailing addresses by using myPay.  (DFAS Forms).

      a.  myPay.  DFAS' online pay account management system that provides paycheck and tax information for military members, retirees, annuitants, and numerous federal civilian employees.  It is the most convenient way to manage your retirement account.  In addition to viewing and printing documents (RAS, CRSC Statement, 1099R), retirees can also:

  • Make address changes.
  • Start or change Direct Deposit.
  • Manage certain (but not all) Allotments.
  • Change tax withholding deductions.
  • Stop or start hard-copy mailings of RAS, CRSC, and 1099R forms.

        b.  Arrears of Pay (AOP) Beneficiary and Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) are discussed under *Survivor Benefits* here.

• Department of Defense •

8.  milConnect.  milConnect is a website provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) (DMDC manages DEERS) that allows sponsors, spouses, and their children (18 years and older) to access information regarding their personal information, health care eligibility, personnel records, and other information from a centralized location.

• Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program •

9.  Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program.  The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program provides long term care insurance to help pay for costs of care when enrollees need help with activities they perform every day, or you have a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease.  Federal and Postal employees and annuitants, active and retired members of the uniformed services, and qualified relatives can apply for this insurance.  Certain medical conditions, or combinations of conditions, will prevent some people from being approved for coverage.  You must apply to find out if you are eligible to enroll.  Also Visit:  LongTermCare.gov.

• NOSTRA (Eyeglasses) •

10.  Naval Ophthalmic Support & Training Activity (NOSTRA).  If you are retired military and eligible for other medical services, you are authorized to receive a limited quantity of standard issue spectacles per year.  How to Order:  Retiree. Email: NOSTRA-CustomerService@med.navy.mil.

• Social Security Administration •

• Social Security Administration - Manila •
Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
Social Security Administration
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723
United States Embassy
1201 Roxas Blvd.
Manila, Philippines 1000

11.  Social Security Administration - U.S. Embassy, Manila.  SSA Manila prefers that benefits applicants contact them directly (instead of contacting the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate).

         a.  Telephone Interviews. SSA prefers to conduct telephone interviews with applicants, therefore, SSA will phone you from their Manila office when you provide your telephone number.  Note:  If you ever receive an unsolicited phone call or email purporting to be from a government agency or commercial business (i.e., you didn't initiate contact with them), beware of a possible *phishing* attempt.

         b.  Certified Documents.  SSA requires that all supporting documents be certified (no cost at ACS when documents are used to apply for U.S. Federal benefits), and must be sent by ACS to SSA--in order to maintain document integrity.

12.  Updating Your Address with SSA.  If you're receiving SSA benefits and are residing outside of the U.S. for more than 6 months, you should update your address with SSA.  Your benefits will be suspended if your address is not updated.  If you are updating your U.S. address to an address in Thailand, you will need to fill out Form SSA-21 and submit it to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are updating an address within Thailand, contact SSA Manila directly. 

13.  I received Form SSA-7162 in the mailWhat is it for?  What should I do with Form SSA-7162?  The Social Security Administration periodically sends Form SSA-7162 to a beneficiary living outside the United States to determine if the beneficiary is still eligible to receive benefits.  When you receive this form, you should answer the questionnaire and return it to the office that sent it as soon as possible.  The form will include instructions and provide the address where you need to return the form.  Generally, a self-addressed envelope is enclosed, too.  All you need to do is affix postage and mail it.  If you do not return this form in a timely manner, your payments will stop.

         a.  In addition to responding to the questionnaire, you should notify Social Security promptly about changes that could affect your payments.  If you fail to report something or deliberately make a false statement, you could be penalized by a fine or imprisonment. You also may lose some of your payments if you do not report changes promptly.  It’s important that you report any change of address to the Social Security Administration to ensure you get this questionnaire and other important notices from SSA.  FBU can help you report a change of address to SSA.  If your benefits are suspended because SSA did not receive your completed Form SSA-7162, FBU can help you restore your benefits.

14.  Social Security Retirement BenefitsTaxed.  Taxes are deducted at source (Green Card holders please see the IRS section on this page here).  A secure, comfortable retirement is every worker's dream.  And now because we're living longer and healthier lives, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did.  Achieving the dream of a secure, comfortable retirement is much easier when you plan your finances.  Information You'll Need When You Apply for Retirement Benefits or Medicare.  Also Visit:  Military Service & Social Security.

           a.  Apply for Benefits.  You may apply online (or contact SSA Manila).  If you feel you need additional assistance with the application process, you may visit U.S. Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Embassy (Bangkok), or U.S. Consulate General (Chiang Mai).  ACS also "certifies" at no cost, supporting personal documentation that may be required by SSA (or VA) to adjudicate your claim.  Lastly, "Legalization" (known as "Authentication" in the U.S.) of Thai documents is presently not required.  Also Visit:  Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States.

           b.  Which Family Members Qualify for Benefits?  When you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record.  If they qualify, your spouse or child may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your full retirement benefit amount.  These payments will not decrease your retirement benefit.  In fact, the value of the benefits your family may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.  NoteResidency Requirements apply--also be advised: "...children adopted outside the United States will not be paid outside the United States, even if the residency requirement is met."  (RAO Note:  If in doubt, contact SSA Manila directly).

15.  Social Security Disability Benefits For Wounded Warriors.  You may apply for disability benefits at any time while in military status or after discharge.  Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security.  Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.  The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.  In order to receive SSA disability benefits, a claimant cannot engage in substantial work activity for pay or profit, also known as substantial gainful activity.  Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of disability benefits. Receipt of military payments should not stop military personnel from applying for disability benefits from Social Security.  If a service member is receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, SSA will evaluate the work activity to determine eligibility for benefits.  The actual work activity is the controlling factor and not the amount of pay received or the person’s military duty status.

• TRICARE Overseas •

• TRICARE Overseas - International SOS (Singapore) •
• Wisconsin Physicians Service (Claims) •
Tel:  1-877-451-8659 (Toll Outside U.S.)
Telephone Customer Service Regional Direct:  +65-6339-2676
Telephone Customer Service Toll Free:  0018004418952
• • •

16.  TRICARE Overseas.  We highly suggest you begin your education and understanding of TRICARE benefits available to you in Thailand by visiting the JUSMAGTHAI TRICARE page for military retirees:  http://www.jusmagthai.com/medical.html.

       a.  Pay 100% *Up Front* (Out-of-Pocket)Since there are no TRICARE network providers in Thailand for retirees, retirees in Thailand first seek medical care from a licensed provider, pay the entire medical bill *up front* (out-of-pocket) upon receipt of services (outpatient and inpatient),  and then file a claim with Wisconsin Physicians Service (WPS) for payment consideration:  WPS claims address.  Reimbursement is based on TRICARE Standard Overseas guidelines.

         b.  Verify Eligibility.  To verify your TRICARE eligibility you can check your DEERS account in milConnect, TRICARE Overseas, or by Phone, Fax or Mail to DSO (DEERS) in California, or visit the nearest DoD ID card issuing facility (JUSMAGTHAI is the only such facility in Thailand).  (Note:  JUSMAGTHAI is not authorized to verify TRICARE eligibility by email, phone, fax, or mail -- verification is done in-person only).

         c.  Dependent(s) Not Yet Registered in DEERS.  If you recently gained a new dependent(s) through marriage, birth, adoption, etc., but have not yet registered them in DEERS, the TRICARE Overseas claims processor WPS will deny any claims filed by (or for) that dependent while that dependent remains unregistered.  If a TRICARE claim is denied in these circumstances, the beneficiary may resubmit the claim after the dependent is registered in DEERS.  In most cases, a new dependent's DEERS registration may be backdated to the date the new dependent was legally gained (if applicable, see Claims for Same-Sex Spouses).  We emphasize this point because we wouldn't want someone delaying needed medical care due to uncertainty over the administrative process--a person's health is vastly more important.  If the DEERS system at JUSMAG is unavailable you may register your dependent(s) in DEERS by contacting the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO) in California.

17.  Proof of Payment.  Due to fraud prevention efforts, beneficiaries are now required to submit proof of payment with all overseas health care and pharmacy claims (regardless of amount), including claims for care received when traveling overseas.  So that WPS may process your claim quickly and correctly, TRICARE recommends that when you pay the provider directly (out-of-pocket), on top of the DD Form 2642 write *Payment Up Front* and the amount paid (submit *Processor's Copy*, not *Patient's Copy*).  For each claim include the following:  (1) Itemized bill or invoice; (2) Diagnosis describing why the medical care is needed, and; (3) Explanation of Benefits from your other health insurance (if you have other health insurance).  Also, make sure the provider clearly annotates *Paid* on each invoice.

          a.  As proof of payment, send any of the following items (as applicable) along with the provider's itemized invoice or bill (clearly marked as being paid), based on these guidelines:  (1) Cancelled check; (2) Credit (or debit) card receipt, or; (3) Electronic funds transfer receipt (bank-to-bank transfer, ATM slip, withdrawal slip, etc.).  For example, if you paid the provider with cash, you have to show proof of the cash withdrawal from your financial institution (e.g., ATM slip, withdrawal slip, bank-to-bank transfer, copy of your bank statement, or copy of your bank passbook).  If you withdrew funds from an ATM to fund your cash payment, we suggest you print out a record of your bank statement showing the date and amount of your ATM withdrawal.  If submitting a bank or credit card statement, or copy of bank passbook, make sure your name is clearly legible, the pertinent withdrawal transaction and amount is properly annotated (you may blank out all other entries), and your account number is blanked out (for your protection).

          b.  It's possible you may still receive a letter from WPS requesting additional proof of payment in order to process your claim.  Common SenseWhat do you need to provide to convince a busy claims clerk that you in fact paid the claim?

• Medicare & TRICARE •

18.  Medicare & TRICARE.  Age 65 is when most individuals first become eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A.  In order to keep your TRICARE benefits (TRICARE For Life) when you first become eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A (due to age 65, SSA disability, or end-stage renal disease), you must enroll in Medicare Part B (premiums):  "TRICARE beneficiaries who live overseas and who are eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A must have Part B to remain eligible for TRICARE even though Medicare does not provide coverage overseas."  To enroll (or to confirm enrollment) in Medicare Part B, email or phone SSA Manila:

Social Security Administration - Manila
Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
Social Security Administration
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723
United States Embassy
1201 Roxas Blvd.
Manila, Philippines 1000
• • •
Medicare:  Medicare.gov  |  Medicare & You

         a.  Frequently Asked QuestionSince Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States then why must I enroll in Medicare Part B at age 65 if I want to keep my TRICARE benefits?  Answer:  Federal law was written as such and signed into law in the FY 2001 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (Public Law 106–398--Oct. 30, 2000): http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/olc/docs/2001NDAA.pdf (Section 712, p. 176).

        b.  Less Than 40 Work Credits Under Social Security.  Concerning Medicare Part B enrollment at age 65, in certain limited cases if you have less than the usually required 40 Social Security work credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A at age 65, it's possible you may not be required by DEERS to enroll in Medicare Part B at age 65 to retain your TRICARE eligibility.  The operative word is may.  The Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office (DSO) (DEERS) is the only legally authorized agency to rule on TRICARE eligibility--not TRICARE, and not SSA.  Therefore, if at age 65 you have less than 40 Social Security work credits (10 years of work) it may be in your best interest to request a TRICARE eligibility case review and ruling from DSO (DEERS).  DSO will coordinate with SSA and then notify you of their ruling once your case review is completed.  If you request a case review and ruling from DSO, it's best that you request it well before you enter your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (see paragraph 20 below) just in case DSO rules that you're still required to enroll in Medicare Part B to retain your TRICARE eligibility at age 65.

19.  "What publications and correspondence are sent to beneficiaries to inform them that they must purchase Medicare Part B to retain TRICARE benefits?"  Medicare-related publications and correspondence that is routinely mailed to beneficiaries (you and, where applicable, your spouse or children):  (Source:  milConnect - Q&A section)

  • The Medicare & You Handbook is mailed by Medicare when the beneficiary becomes Medicare Part A eligible.
  • The Welcome to Medicare Pamphlet is mailed by Medicare three months prior to the beneficiary's Medicare effective date.
  • The Turning 65 Medicare Letter is prepared by TRICARE and mailed by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) five months prior to the month that the beneficiary turns 65.
  • The Under 65 Medicare Letter is prepared by TRICARE and mailed by DMDC after CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) notifies DMDC that the beneficiary is Medicare eligible.

         a.  Important Note!  In order to receive important Medicare & TRICARE information, YOU must keep your mailing address updated with the Social Security Administration, and keep your mailing address updated in DEERS (see our DEERS section).

20.  Avoid a Break in TRICARE Coverage.  If you haven't filed for Social Security benefits, RRB benefits, or a federal annuity from the Office of Personnel Management, or you reside outside of the U.S., you must file an application for Medicare Part A and Part B.  To avoid the Medicare surcharge for late enrollment, you must enroll in Part B during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65, or four months if your birthday is on the first of the month).  To avoid a break in TRICARE coverage be sure to enroll no later than two months before you turn 65.  If you enroll any later, your Part B effective date will be delayed and you will have a break in TRICARE coverage.

21.  Inspect Your Medicare Card.  Once you receive your Medicare Part B card, ensure the effective date is correct and Medicare Part B enrollment is reflected in your DEERS record.  If you believe the effective date is incorrect YOU must contact Medicare.  Lastly, ensure Medicare Part B is reflected in your DEERS record before you renew your DoD ID card.  If you didn't receive your Medicare Card (or you misplaced it) please click here to learn how to request a replacement.

22.  Late Enrollment in Medicare Part B.  Since Medicare does not provide benefits for medical care received outside of the U.S., TRICARE is the primary source of health benefits.  Further, for every 12-month period beyond your Medicare Part B initial enrollment period (typically based on your 65th birthday) that you wait before you enroll, you incur a 10% penalty that's added to the monthly premium, and in this scenario, you can then only enroll in Medicare Part B during the annual General Enrollment period of January-February-March (effective date of Medicare Part B then becomes 1 July of that year).  To enroll (or to confirm enrollment) in Medicare Part B, email or phone SSA Manila.  For more information on Medicare Part B, visit the SSA and Medicare links in paragraph 18 above.

• Department of Veterans Affairs •

23.  VA - General InfoContact VA:  VA prefers internet-using veterans residing overseas to use IRIS (instead of phoning).

• VA Benefits - General Info •
• VA Regional Office - Pittsburgh •
Veterans Affairs Regional Office
ATTN:  Foreign Team, Room 1514
1000 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4004
Tel:  1-412-395-6272
Fax:  1-412-395-6091 or 6057
Tel:  1-800-827-1000 (VA General Contact)
Email:  IRIS
Appointment of Representative:  Individual  |  VSO

24.  VA Education Benefits.  Various education benefits are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA Benefits - Education
Education (GI Bill):  1-888-442-4551

• Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) - *Disability* •

*** Important Notes ***

  1.  No VA Medical Facility or Military Treatment Facility in Thailand.
  2.  100% Payment up front (out-of-pocket) is normally required for FMP medical services.
  3.  Disability percentages have no bearing on determining eligibility for FMP medical services.
  4.  Manila Outpatient Clinic serves service-connected veterans residing or sojourning in the PI.

* A Claimed Condition is Not a Disability Unless the VA Decides It Is *

• VA Compensation (Disability) •
• VA Regional Office - Pittsburgh •
Veterans Affairs Regional Office
ATTN:  Foreign Team, Room 1514
Active Duty/Full-Time Nat'l Guard:  Pre-Discharge Programs
1000 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4004
Tel:  1-412-395-6272
Fax:  1-412-395-6091 or 6057
Fax:  1-412-395-6184 (Provider's Submitting a DBQ)
Tel:  1-800-827-1000 (VA General Contact)
Email:  IRIS
• • •
VA Foreign Medical Program
VA Health Administration Center
Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
P.O. Box 469061
Denver, CO 80246-9061
Tel:  1-303-331-7590
Fax:  1-303-331-7807
Appointment of Representative:  Individual  |  VSO
• • •

• Listen Up! •

1.  Learn the Claims Process!  Whether you're still on active duty (or full time National Guard or Reserve duty), or already retired or separated, RAO staff cannot emphasize strongly enough just how extremely important it is for you to be proactive and educate yourself on the various aspects of the VA's disability claims process.  If you're truly serious about pursuing VA disability you should read this section of our webpage, but also understand that this section is merely a starting point to give you a general knowledge framework.  If you're interested in learning more about the VA disability process (for health care reasons, or you're seeking an increase in rating) then we certainly welcome your questions.  But, if your primary focus for filing a disability claim is *money* then please don't waste our time.  Yes, monthly disability compensation is important, but again, if *cash* is your primary or sole pursuit, RAO staff will not entertain further discussion with you on this topic.  Lastly, while there are also a number of informative online forums for veterans and commercially available VA disability claims publications, for up-to-date, expert assistance contact the VA directly, or contact your Accredited Representative.

• Accredited Representative •

2.  VA encourages individuals who are applying for disability compensation to work with an accredited representative or agent to assist them in completing a Fully Developed Claim for submission through eBenefits/VDC.  Being accredited means organizations and individuals must have VA permission to represent veterans before the Department in their claims for VA benefits.  The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that veterans have qualified and competent representation. These individuals receive specialized training in VA benefits law and procedure.  Also Visit:  Directory of Veterans Service Organizations

       a.  RAO Note:  The best piece of advice RAO staff can offer you concerning VA disability (especially being so far from home) is for you to seriously consider nominating an *Accredited Representative* (advocate) who is willing to work with and for you, stay in the process, and press for your rights and your best interests.  Just be advised that while an accredited representative certainly can be very helpful to you, they still aren't the end-all, save-all.  Ultimately, it's still your personal responsibility to educate yourself and to manage your claim.

• Contact VA •

3.  The VA-preferred method of contact for inquiries by internet-using veterans residing overseas is via IRIS (instead of telephoning).  Using IRIS gives you 24/7 contact ability as well as a date-time stamp on your inquiry or submission.  For inquiries, IRIS is more reliable than Telephone, Fax, or standard Mail.  General Tel:  1-800-827-1000.  A Word of Caution:  If you act unprofessionally towards the VA, the VA can and has terminated subject matter assistance to the offender.

• eBenefits •

4.  eBenefits.  eBenefits is your one-stop shop for online benefits-related tools and information.  This portal is designed for Wounded Warriors, Veterans, Service Members, their families, and their caregivers.  You're invited to explore eBenefits and become a registered user.  eBenefits provides two main services:  1) A catalog of links to other sites that provide information about military and veteran benefits, and; 2) A personalized workspace called My eBenefits that provides quick access to eBenefits tools.  Using eBenefits tools gives users the ability to perform numerous self-service functions.  You can Apply for Benefits, Download your DD-214, and View your Benefits Status.

• Disability Compensation •

5.  Transformation.  The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is responding to the significant expansion in the scope and complexity of its mission.  From 2008 to 2012, VBA processed 16 percent more claims than during years prior.  This is improvement, but it was dwarfed by the 50-percent increase in incoming claims – which contained 19 percent more medical conditions, making them more complex.  Additionally, 50 percent of VBA staff have fewer than 2 years in their current position and they use antiquated, disjointed paper processes that are labor intensive.

6.  Disability Compensation.  Disability compensation is a monthly benefit paid to a veteran as a result of injuries or diseases that were incurred or aggravated by active military service.  It's also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care. Disability ratings range from 0 to 100 percent (in increments of 10 percent).  Compensation is paid for disability ratings between 10 to 100 percent.  Veterans with disability ratings between 30 and 100 percent are also eligible for monthly allowances for a spouse, and for each child.  You may be eligible for disability compensation if you have a service-related disability and you were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  Benefits are not subject to Federal or state income tax.  Veterans must first apply, and then the VA must *award disability* before a veteran can receive these benefits.

       a.  RAO Note:  While the burden of pursuing a VA disability rating rests squarely on the veteran, when a veteran contacts the RAO inquiring about seeking VA disability, that veteran deserves to be given the necessary base-line tools and a vector.  Keep in mind, there is no VA office / representative in Thailand.  Yes, there are those of us familiar with the VA disability process, but we are not trained VA staffers.  Note:  Don’t forget to apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) if you believe you meet the criteria (links to CRSC info are on this page under *DoD*).

         b.  Medical Opinions.  RAO staff is sometimes wrongly asked for our *medical opinion*.  Two real examples:  "Can I file a disability claim for my eyes?"  And, "Can I file a claim for Individual Unemployability?"  Our stock reply is, “We are not medical doctors.  A VA service-connected disability award requires filing a claim, obtaining one or more medical diagnoses from one or more licensed physicians, and it requires a rating decision by the VA awarding service-connection.”  Be proactive and do it correctly--file a claim, visit a licensed doctor(s), and submit the evidence needed to support your claim.

• Presumptive - Agent Orange, Gulf War Illnesses, Other Exposures •

7.  Public Health.  VA assumes that certain *presumptive diseases* can be related to a veteran’s qualifying military service.  Visit the respective VA webpage for more information and specific criteria:

• File a Disability Compensation Claim •

8.  Before Leaving Military Service.  If you are a member of the armed forces serving on either active duty or full time National Guard or Reserve duty (Titles 10 and 32), VA encourages you to apply through its Pre-Discharge Program before leaving service.

9.  How to Apply.  You may apply online via eBenefits (or submit a paper claim).  Pittsburgh PA is the servicing VA Regional Office for Thailand if you use APO AP 96546 or a Thai street address with the VA.  Use the claim form applicable to your filing status:

       a.  VA News Excerpt:  New Technology in Place for Electronic Submission of Veterans’ Disability Claims.

      "By filing electronically, any compensation benefits that are awarded will be effective back to the date the Veteran started entering their claim information in eBenefits.  From that initial claim establishment date, each Veteran has up to a year to gather all necessary records and hit “submit” to preserve their original date of claim. 

         eBenefits allows Veterans to upload digital images of records and evidence to support their claims, bypassing the need to physically mail in personal records and wait for confirmation of receipt.  VA is advising Veterans to gather and submit all relevant medical records and file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) in eBenefits, which entails entering all available evidence at the time the claim is submitted and verifying to VA that they have no more evidence to submit.  Veterans filing an FDC will receive priority processing over the traditional claims process.  VA can typically process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim, and there is no risk to Veterans in filing an FDC.  If VA finds that there is a piece of relevant evidence that was not submitted by the Veteran, but is needed for a rating decision (like private medical records), claims processors will work to obtain that evidence on the Veteran’s behalf and process the claim in the traditional way."

10.  Get Your Claim Processed Quicker!  The Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Program is the fastest way of getting your compensation or pension claim processed.  Participation in the FDC Program allows for faster claims processing while preserving great quality of service and your right to appeal a decision.  Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) are central to this program.  Participation in the FDC program is strictly voluntary.  RAO Note:  Be advised, there's an out-of-pocket expense to the veteran for a *self-requested* DBQ examination (inside or outside the U.S.)--see paragraph 16 below.

11.  Evidence Requirements.  Submit all relevant evidence in your possession and/or provide information sufficient to enable VA to obtain all relevant evidence not in your possession.  This includes the following as part of your application:  1) Discharge or separation papers (DD-214 or equivalent); 2) Service Treatment Records if they are in your possession, and; 3) Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports).  See the RAO webpage here about submitting evidence.

12.  Disability Claim Date Before Medical Treatment.  Ensure your disability compensation claim is received by the VA on or before the date of a *self-requested* disability physical exam (or other self-requested medical treatment) for the medical condition you're claiming disability.  Reason:  The VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) normally cannot reimburse medical treatment that occurred before a disability compensation claim was received by the VA.  FMP is further discussed on the RAO webpage here.

13.  Be Your Own Advocate!  A veteran must become his/her own advocate to navigate a stressed VA system.  Too many veterans approach the VA too passively, assuming some advocate will advance their cause for them.  For this reason, RAO staff cannot stress strongly enough the high importance for VA disability claimants to be very proactive with managing their claims.  It‘s vital to stay on top of personal responsibilities in the claims process, including carefully reading all VA correspondence and appropriately responding within mandated time limits.  Don't be one of those veterans who fall into a false sense of security and then cannot understand why their claim for disability benefits is denied.  This also applies to active duty personnel who *trust* the military to properly maintain medical and personnel records--make personal copies of your military health and personnel records while you're still in service.  These records are the evidence needed to establish disability ratings worth a lot of money over an average lifetime.  Reminder:  As stated in paragraph 2a above; "Just be advised that while an accredited representative certainly can be very helpful to you, they still aren't the end-all, save-all. Ultimately, it's still your personal responsibility to educate yourself and to manage your claim."

14.  VA Deploys New Processing Model for Compensation Claims.  The new organizational model involves special handling of claims from veterans who are facing the most serious injuries or illnesses or experiencing financial hardships or homelessness, and therefore need immediate attention.

Submitting Evidence

15.  Delivery Methods.  In addition to using eBenefits, there are other tried and true methods for submitting evidence to the VA, including using a combination of methods to ensure the VA can’t say “we didn’t receive it” or “we didn’t receive it within the allotted time.”  Place your full Name, SSN and VA File # (if already assigned a VA File #) in the upper right hand corner of each and every piece of evidence you submit to the VA.  Sign your documents and get them to the VA:

  • To Accredited Representative or VA:  Fax, Certified/Express Mail, FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc.
  • To VA onlyIRIS message.  Note:  IRIS is information only--attachments are not permitted.
  • Example:  Sending a Fax to your servicing VA Regional Office (VARO) works well with a follow-up message to your servicing VARO through IRIS (gives you proof of submission--print a hardcopy or .PDF file).

Veteran's *Self-Requested* Disability Exam

16.  Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs).  Veterans who *self-request* a VA disability physical examination typically ask a private licensed health care provider to complete one or more Disability Benefits Questionnaires.  Veterans who *self-request* a disability examination (whether or not a DBQ is used) pay 100% up front (out-of-pocket) to a licensed health care provider for the exam.  However, be advised that for veterans residing outside of the U.S. (Philippines excluded) there is no reimbursement guarantee by the VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) for a *self-requested* disability exam.  Read more:

      a.  FMP Reimbursement Is Not GuaranteedRAO Note:  Many veterans are mistakenly expecting timely FMP reimbursement for a *self-requested* disability physical exam.  For reasons explained below, FMP reimbursement for a *self-requested* disability exam won’t be timely, and it’s even possible the FMP claim may be denied.  A veteran's *self-use* of DBQs falls under different FMP reimbursement criteria than does a *VA-Directed* C&P Exam.  While a *VA-Directed* C&P Exam can be timely reimbursed by FMP when claims policy is met (avg. 45 business days), FMP reimbursement for a veteran's *self-requested* disability exam first depends upon whether or not disability is awarded by the VA for that medical condition.  More below:

  • VA Disability *Awarded*:  VA FMP can reimburse a veteran's *self-requested* disability examination for the medical condition the VA awarded disability--but only when FMP claims policy is met (this includes the disability compensation claim date being on or before the date of the disability exam).  Just remember that when the veteran’s *self-requested* disability exam is for a medical condition not yet awarded VA disability, then FMP cannot reimburse that exam unless/until that medical condition is awarded disability, and FMP claims policy is met.  Important Note: VA Disability Compensation claim adjudication can easily take Months or even Years depending upon claim complexity.  Therefore, veterans expecting timely FMP reimbursement for a *self-requested* disability exam will be disappointed.  (However, FMP can timely reimburse a *VA-Directed* C&P exam when FMP claims policy is met).
  • VA Disability *Denied*:  VA FMP legally cannot reimburse a veteran's *self-requested* disability physical exam for the medical condition the VA denied disability (and when a disability exam date is before the date of the actual disability compensation claim).  In this example, if your *self-requested* disability exam costs you 20,000 Baht and your VA disability compensation claim is denied, that's 20,000 Baht you will not be reimbursed.  (However, FMP can timely reimburse a *VA-Directed* C&P exam when FMP claims policy is met).

          b.  Reimbursement Recap.  A VA disability physical exam can be quite expensive depending upon required tests for the medical condition(s) being evaluated.  For the reasons stated in paragraph 16a above, there's no guarantee FMP will reimburse (at all) a veteran's *self-requested* disability exam.  Veterans need to understand this possibility so they may make an informed decision as to whether or not to *self-request* a disability exam (such as when using the Fully Developed Claims Program), or file a disability claim via traditional process and wait for the VA to schedule a *VA-Directed* C&P Exam (which can be FMP reimbursed when policy is met--see paragraph 18 below).  Lastly, any issues concerning FMP claim adjudication is strictly between the veteran and FMP.  It does not involve consular staff, RAO, TRICARE, or health care provider (unless additional medical/billing documentation is needed from the provider).

• Compensation & Pension (C&P) Physical Examination •

17.  Compensation & Pension (C&P) Examination.  The veteran pays for a *VA-Directed C&P Exam* up front (out-of-pocket) then submits a claim to the VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) for payment consideration--this is clearly stated in the exam notification cover letter from U.S. Citizen Services (ACS, U.S. Embassy) and in the VA correspondence to the veteran. Further, make sure the VA has your current mailing address.  If you're moving around and you don't keep your address updated with the VA, you risk missing your C&P exam notification, and as a result, jeopardize possibly being awarded disability.  Also, in most cases, unless the veteran brings their pertinent service (and private) treatment records (C-file) to the C&P exam, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a physician to render a medical opinion as to service-connection.  Plainly speaking, gathering and keeping with you a copy of your pertinent records is the only smart and sensible thing to do.  (RAO Note: *Presumptive* medical conditions don't necessarily require your service treatment records--unless those records help to prove you have a presumptive medical condition, that you served in a specific geographic area during a specific time period, and/or you performed certain duties).  More in paragraph 17a below:

        a.  Use Common Sense.  More than a few veterans have told their C&P examining physician that, "My records are in a box in the States" (while the veteran is here in Thailand).  Frequently, a veteran will also say, "The VA has a copy of all that stuff."  That's a dangerous and ultimately self-defeating assumption veterans shouldn't make.  It's always best to presume the VA doesn't have any of your history.  Reality:  The VA has at times experienced *significant challenges* with client records management.  Again, if your examining physician is unable to review your records, how do you realistically and truthfully expect them to write a complete, and hopefully beneficial, disability exam report?  As well, even when you’re undergoing an examination for a *presumptive* medical condition, your physician reviewing your treatment records with you may also find one or more additional medical conditions you had long forgotten about or perhaps hadn’t even considered. Bottom line:  Bring all service and private treatment records with you to the C&P exam.  Be smart and be proactive … Help your doctor to help you!

         b.  Stay on Point!  When undergoing a VA-directed C&P exam (or a *self-requested* disability exam), keep in mind that the examining physician's sole purpose is to conduct your examination.  Remember, you're there to be examined--you're not there for medical treatment.  Keep unrelated dialogue to a minimum.  Let the examiner concentrate on conducting your examination.  A chatterbox veteran (or worse yet, *a complainer*) is likely not going to give the examiner a favorable opinion of you.  You also risk distracting the examiner and causing relevant and important evidence to be missed.  Plus, the limited time you have with your examiner is then wasted by irrelevancies.  To be clear, having a thorough medical dialogue with your examiner is very important, just be sure to keep it relevant to your examination.

FMP Claim for C&P Examination

18.  File an FMP Claim for Your VA-Directed C&P Examination.  In addition to meeting claims documentation, information, and timely filing requirements in the FMP Handbook, RAO staff recommends you also include with your FMP claim a copy of the VA 21-2507 (Request for Physical Examination) that directed you undergo a C&P examination.  As well, if it's your first-ever FMP claim, also include a completed FMP Registration Form.  Lastly, remember to always submit proof of payment, and keep a copy of all claims you submit.

Appeal a C&P Rating Decision

19.  Filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) starts the VA appeals process.  A NOD is a simple letter to the VA stating you disagree with their disability compensation claim rating decision.  Some Examples:  “I respectfully disagree with the VA’s decision denying service-connection for my Spine Condition."  Or;  "I respectfully disagree with the VA’s decision awarding me 0% for my Spine Condition.  I believe the rating should be higher than 0%.”  The VA has also newly developed VA Form 21-0958 - Notice of Disagreement that you may use if you disagree with any part of your VA disability compensation claim rating decision.  Presently, use of VA Form 21-0958 is optional, but the VA wants to make its use mandatory.  Concurrently with a NOD, you may also request a *De Novo* review.  A de novo review is a new and complete review of the appealed issue with no deference given to the decision being appealed.  This review leads to a new decision, which may be a full grant, partial grant, clear and unmistakable error, or no change.  A claimant may not have more than one review under this section of the same decision.  RAO Advice:  Closely read all VA correspondence taking careful note of action required and suspense dates so as to preserve your right to appeal.  As well, if you haven't already done so, consider nominating an accredited representative to assist you.

• Board of Veterans' Appeals •

20.  Board of Veterans' Appeals.  The Board of Veterans' Appeals (also known as "BVA" or "the Board") is a part of the VA, located in Washington, D.C.  Members of the Board review benefit claims determinations made by local VA offices and issue decision on appeals.  These Law Judges, attorneys experienced in veterans law and in reviewing benefit claims, are the only ones who can issue Board decisions.  Staff attorneys, also trained in veterans' law, review the facts of each appeal and assist the Board members.  Anyone who is not satisfied with the results of a claim for veterans benefits (determined by a VA regional office, medical center, or other local VA office) should read the "How do I Appeal" pamphlet.  It is intended to explain the steps involved in filing an appeal and to serve as a reference for the terms and abbreviations used in the appeal process.  Also See:  Board of Veterans' Appeals Decisions Search.

• Individual Unemployability •

21.  Individual Unemployability.  Individual Unemployability is a part of VA's disability compensation program that allows VA to pay certain veterans disability compensation at the 100% rate, even though VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the total level.  Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must be a veteran.
  • You must have at least one service connected disability rated at least at 60%, OR
  • Two or more service connected disabilities at least one disability ratable at 40 percent or more with a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
  • You must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities (marginal employment, such as odd jobs, is not considered substantial gainful employment for VA purposes).

      a.  Under exceptional circumstances this benefit may be granted with a lower disability rating than noted above provided the evidence shows the service-connected disability or disabilities present such an exceptional or unusual disability picture, due to such factors as marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization, that applying the normal disability requirements is impractical.

• Add Dependents to Your Claim •

22.  Add Your Dependents to Your Claim.  If you didn't include your dependents on your initial disability claim, or you have gained dependents since filing or being awarded disability, you may update your claim with your dependent information by submitting VA 21-686c - Declaration of Status of Dependents to the VA Regional Office managing your claim.  As well, veterans in receipt of 30% or greater compensation benefits and who are eBenefits Premium (DS Logon level 2) account holders can apply to have new dependents added to their benefits profile via the VONAPP Direct Connect (VDC) tool on the eBenefits portal (see eBenefits FAQs).  Lastly, all Thai language dependency documents (marriage certificate, divorce decree, spouse's birth certificate, child's birth certificate, etc.) require certified English translation to be submitted with the Thai language documents.  *Legalization* (called *Authentication* in the U.S.) of Thai documents is presently not required.

File for an Increase in Disability Rating

23.  File for an Increase in Disability Rating.  A VA Disability Ratings Increase is for veterans who feel their service-connected medical conditions have worsened since their last rating decision.  To request or file for an increase in rating is a simple matter.  Write a letter to your servicing VA Regional Office clearly stating that you believe an increase in rating is warranted, the percentage rating you feel is correct, the reason(s) why you believe so, and then submit the evidence necessary to support your claim.  If you file for an increase in rating, be duly advised that requesting an increase in an existing disability rating carries with it a measure of risk.  Since the VA always wants to ensure that you are *correctly* rated, the inherent risk in requesting an increase in rating is that the exact opposite may happen--the VA may possibly decrease the rating.  Again, any time you request an increase in rating it brings your VA disability file under scrutiny for the reason being that your disability rating should at all times match your physical condition as closely as possible.  Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

• No VA Medical Facility •

24.  VA Medical Facility.  *** None in Thailand ***  Planning a visit or relocation to Thailand?  Educate yourself now, before you arrive:  Foreign Medical Program (excluding Philippines).  VA Manila Outpatient Clinic  |  Guam  |  Hawaii  |  American Samoa.

        a.  If you require medically-necessary treatment for a VA-rated service-connected medical condition, you can either pay up front to the caregiver and file for payment consideration through the VA's Foreign Medical Program (see next section), or obtain care at a VA medical facility.  Also, for a visiting veteran from the U.S., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines, FMP will cover emergency care for a service-connected medical condition, but normally not entertain a claim for a veteran who comes to Thailand to circumvent VA health care available to them where they reside (aka Medical Tourism).  Contact FMP directly to learn more about VA health benefits before you travel.

• VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) •

*** VA Foreign Medical Program (FMP) ***

"VA may authorize foreign medical services for veterans only for a VA rated service-connected condition or for a condition that is associated with and aggravated by a VA rated service-connected condition.  Disability percentages have no bearing on determining eligibility for FMP medical services.  Additionally, VA may authorize necessary foreign medical services for any condition for a veteran participating in the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program (38 U.S.C. 31)."

• VA Health Administration •
• VA Foreign Medical Program •
VA Health Administration Center
Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
Foreign Medical Program:  Handbook  |  Policy Manual
P.O. Box 469061
Denver, CO 80246-9061
Tel:  1-303-331-7590
Fax:  1-303-331-7807
U.S. FDA-Approved Medication (U.S. Food & Drug Admin.)
• • •
• • •

1.  Foreign Medical Program (FMP).  The VA established the Foreign Medical Program to provide health care benefits to U.S. veterans with VA-rated service-connected conditions who are residing or traveling abroad (Philippines excluded).  VA is responsible for paying for all foreign-provided, medically necessary services associated with the treatment of adjudicated, service-connected disabilities or for any condition associated with and held to be aggravating a service-connected disability.  Veterans should submit claims for the treatment of any service-connected disabilities to FMP.  (Note:  The FMP office does not issue pre-certification for foreign medical services).

       a.  RAO Note #1:  FMP will also reimburse a VA-directed C&P Physical Exam when claims policy is met.

       b.  RAO Note #2:  There is no guarantee that FMP will reimburse a veteran's *self-requested* physical exam (whether or not a Disability Benefits Questionnaire is used).  A veteran's *self-requested* disability exam is exactly that--it's *self-requested*, and not VA-directed.  Please visit the RAO's webpage here for an explanation of out-of-pocket expenses and FMP reimbursement policy pertaining to a veteran's *self-requested* disability examination.

No Coverage in U.S. or Philippines

2.  Does the Foreign Medical Program (FMP) authorization cover required healthcare services while the veteran is back visiting in the United States?  No.  FMP authorizations are limited to healthcare services obtained in foreign countries only. Should services be required while in the United States, the veteran should contact the nearest VA health care facility.  In addition to not covering services received in the U.S., FMP authorizations do not cover services received in the Philippines.

Pay 100% *Up Front*

3.  100% Payment Up Front.  Normally, payment is up front (out-of-pocket) to a health care provider, then file for payment consideration with FMP.  If you're a veteran residing in Thailand who has a need for long-term treatment of a service-connected medical condition, it's possible your care provider may be willing to bill FMP directly for treatment of that service-connected medical condition.  However, the decision to direct bill FMP rests solely with your care provider.  For direct billing, care providers often ask for *Guarantee Payment*.  The VA does not provide *Guarantee Payment*.  And, just to be perfectly clear, any discussion of direct billing is strictly between the veteran and care provider.  It does not involve the RAO or TRICARE.

Reimbursement by U.S. Treasury Check

4.  How are payments made for Foreign Medical Program (FMP) benefits?  All FMP payments are made by U.S. treasury checks, issued in U.S. currency.  Payments are based on the exchange rate applicable to the date service was rendered, or in the case of hospitalization, the discharge date.  (RAO Note:  For correctly completed and filed claims, plan on at least 45 business days to receive reimbursement.  If part (or all) of your claim is denied, calmly and maturely try to determine the reason, and appeal it if necessary.  Ranting about it and acting unprofessionally will not work in your favor).

FMP is for All *Service-Connected* Veterans

5.  FMP is for All *Service-Connected* Veterans.  Due to misinformation posted in a local online forum, the RAO was asked if FMP is only for *disabled veterans who did not retire*?  Fact:  FMP is for retired and non-retired veterans alike who have a VA-rated service-connected disability, and who are residing or traveling abroad (Philippines excluded).  Hence, a U.S. military veteran retired for longevity or medically retired may indeed use FMP for his/her service-connected medical condition(s), and also use TRICARE (or other health insurance) for non service-connected medical conditions.  In one case, a retired veteran for seven years had used TRICARE for his VA-rated service-connected medical conditions stating that he *wasn't aware* of FMP's availability.  Surely, TRICARE's 25% cost-share over a seven-year period is not a small sum. (RAO staff suggested he file an FMP claim to try to recoup applicable unreimbursed TRICARE cost-shares for the preceding two years--under FMP's normal two-year claim filing policy).

• File an FMP Claim •

6.  How to File an FMP Claim.  In addition to meeting claims documentation and information requirements in the FMP Handbook, if it's your first-ever FMP claim, also include a completed FMP Registration Form.  While veterans may select providers of their choice, it is recommended that the selected providers have the ability to produce their medical documents and billing statements in English.  Documentation and billing statements that are submitted in a foreign language will require contracted translation services which will delay claims processing and payment.  For claim integrity reasons, translations by anyone other than the provider or the FMP translation contractor will not be accepted.  Lastly, remember to always submit proof of payment, and keep a copy of all claims you submit.

7.  FMP Timely Filing of Claims.  Claims for payment or reimbursement for expenses of medical care or services must be filed no later than two years after:  1) The date the care or service was rendered, or; 2) The date of discharge (for inpatient hospitalization).  Also see paragraph 8 immediately below.  Please also visit:  Claims for Reimbursement.

FMP *Retroactive* Claim

8.  FMP *Retroactive* Claim.  In the case of a retroactive VA adjudication of service-connection:  1) The claim must be filed within 2 years of the date the veteran was notified by VA of the allowance of a award of the service-connected disability; 2) Claims may be considered for payment for medical services received within a two-year period prior to the date the veteran filed an original or reopened claim which resulted in an award of service-connection, but never prior to the effective date of the award, and; 3) Payment will never be made for care received beyond this 2-year period whether service connected or not.

       a.  RAO Note #1:  Before you were rated by the VA to have a service-connected medical condition(s), you likely used TRICARE (or other health insurance) for treatment of your medical condition(s) that the VA has now rated to be service-connected.  In this scenario, you may file a *retroactive* claim with FMP to try to recoup unreimbursed cost-shares paid to TRICARE (or other health insurance).  VA correspondence will tell you how far back in time you may file a retro claim.

       b.  RAO Note #2:  When you file a retro claim, in addition to your original treatment documentation, itemized billing invoices, and proof of payment, you must include TRICARE's (and/or other health insurance) Explanation of Benefits (EOB) for all claims pertaining to your service-connected medical conditions for which you are now filing a retro claim.  If you don't submit an EOB(s) FMP may be unable to process your claim--FMP and TRICARE cross-queue to prevent fraudulent *double-dipping*.  If you previously didn't use TRICARE (or other health insurance) you may of course file an FMP claim for payment consideration for the [unreimbursed] amount you paid--just be prepared to receive a request for additional information.

• Prescription Medication •

9.  Prescription MedicationFMP does not offer a pharmacy mailout program -- *** REPEAT *** -- FMP does NOT mail medication outside of the U.S., even to an APO, FPO, or DPO address (Outpatient Prescriptions).  Moreover, FMP does not reimburse for non-U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication, nor vitamins, therefore, Physicians should only prescribe medication that is legally available within the veteran's country of residence and are accepted by the VA and U.S. FDA.  By Federal law, FMP cannot pay for prescription medication that is not U.S. FDA approved.  Do you want to keep more money in your pocket?  Always ask your care provider to prescribe U.S. FDA-approved medication:  Drugs@FDA.

       a.  RAO Note:  A number of veterans residing outside of the U.S. are lucky to have had [mistakenly] been receiving their VA medication via mail direct from the VA despite the VA's own policy of not mailing medication outside of the U.S.  In many instances, the VA has caught their error and terminated the mailing of medication.  Occasionally, a veteran will complain and ask the RAO the reason why they can no longer receive their VA medication via mail.  As previously stated, the plain answer is that the VA simply caught the fact that they were violating their own mailing policy.  For those veterans lucky enough to still be receiving their VA medication via mail, don't be surprised if the VA eventually catches their error and stops mailing medication to you.

• Survivor Benefits •

Department of Defense (DoD)
Other U.S. Gov't Agencies
Casualty Assistance:  DoD  |  USA  |  USAF  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG

RAO Webmaster's Note
The RAO's informative Survivor Assistance Guide dated July 1, 2012 is out-of-date and has been removed from this webpage.  As of yet, office staff have not scheduled an update.  For benefits information please contact office staff.

• Death of a U.S. Citizen •

1.  Death of a U.S. Citizen.  Death is a difficult experience for one's family and friends no matter where it takes place.  When death occurs overseas the experience can be even harder, especially if the procedures involved are not clearly understood. U.S. Citizen Services (ACS) (U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General) is ready to assist family and friends in the event of the death of an American Citizen in Thailand.

       RAO Note:  If your wishes are for your remains to be repatriated back to the U.S., what is your plan and means of payment to make it happen?  Also, if you have no loved ones here in Thailand, do you intend for your remains to languish in the morgue until your body is disposed of by local authorities?  One such stay in the morgue was nine months before the body was disposed of.  Think about it.  Lastly, while the RAO is not normally permitted to highlight a private business, there are only a few known international repatriation services in Thailand:  Teck Hong  |  Siam Funeral  |  John Allison Monkhouse.  If you know of other international repatriation service providers based in Thailand, please inform the RAO.

• Survivor Assistance •

2.  Survivor Assistance.  The key to Survivor Assistance is thorough Preparation!  To help your eligible survivors prepare for the inevitable, we make available this webpage, a family preparation handout titled What My Family Should Know, and a Casualty Assistance Worksheet. This webpage, handout, and worksheet reflect typical benefits and typically-required information.  Numerous documents will need to be assembled--do so NOW--and also please include a 'Cover Letter' detailing your marital history, insurance, finances, etc.  A cover letter helps remove ambiguity and quite possibly helps explain information that is needed to support one or more applications for benefits.  Lastly, all Thai language documents require certified English translation.  Thai language and certified English translation documents are submitted together. (*Legalization* of Thai documents is no longer required to apply for U.S. benefits.  But, Legalization of Thai documents is an option when applying for an ITIN).

  • Do you have a Last Will & TestamentDoes your executor and heirs know where it is?  (Typically used for asset disposition; specific instructions as to guardianship for your minor children if both parents pass away (or become incapacitated) within the same time period; to specify disposition of your remains--Burial, and desired location of burial; Cremation, and disposition of cremains; etc.).  Note:  A Will that jointly covers assets and wishes in both the U.S. and Thailand is recommended to be notarized by "International Notary" being that individual U.S. states may possibly not legally recognize a Will notarized by Thai notary seal / stamp.  Contact your state to learn their legal requirements, and/or check your local area for International Notary availability.
  • Do you have a Letter of Instruction (LOI)Does your executor and heirs know where it is?  (Your end-of-life desires may cover anything, especially burial or cremation if your Will is inaccessible, just know that it is not legally binding). The LOI should supplement the Will, it should never contradict it--if it does, the Will takes precedence. (Note:  It would be very prudent to include in an LOI, disposition of your remains).
  • Does your Last Will & Testament or Letter of Instruction specify disposition of your remains--such as Cremation?
  • Does your Last Will & Testament or Letter of Instruction specify a family member or friend that is going to repatriate your remains, if repatriation is your wish?
  • Do you have Next-of-Kin or an Emergency Contact person in the U.S.Who in Thailand has that information?
  • If any previous marriages, what is the Name, Date of Birth, and SSN of your former spouse(s)Date and Location of MarriageDate and Location of Divorce or DeathIf you don't already have the original or certified divorce document(s) in your possession, why not?  Thai Amphurs  U.S. Vital Records.
  • If your spouse is Thai and doesn't already have an original or certified Birth Certificate issued by the Amphur where they were born, or a Proof of Birth document from "Census Registration" (Bangkok) showing date of birth--Why Not?  (Census Registration, Telephone:  02-281-5000).
  • Has your spouse committed to memory your Social Security Number?
  • Who is going to assist your survivors with legal matters?  (Hint:  Not the RAO or JUSMAG).
  • Who is going to assist your survivors with financial matters?  (Hint:  Not the RAO or JUSMAG).
  • Who is going to prepare your taxes for year of death, and any prior tax years?  (Hint:  Not the RAO or JUSMAG).
  • Is your spouse able to speak sufficient English so as to be able to help themself?

      a.  Certified copies of your DD-214(s) (or earlier equivalent) are at the core of your survivors receiving U.S. Federal benefits in a timely manner--NOW is the time to request your DD-214s!  For example:  It sometimes takes over 90 days to receive certified DD-214s from the National Personnel Records Center (or other source as specified on page 3 of Standard Form 180).  Also, ALL Divorce Decrees for both sponsor and spouse are needed--collect them NOW as it's often faster and legally easier to do so while you're still alive:  Vital Records (ease of obtaining divorce decrees from the U.S. varies by State/Territory).  The same applies to current Marriage and Birth Certificates (for survivors) (Thai Amphurs).  After all, wouldn't you want your family to start receiving a steady monetary benefit as quickly as possible?

      b.  Once all required documents are submitted, plan to start receiving eligible benefits in approximately:  SBP:  3 Months.  SSA:  3 Months.  VA Survivors Pension:  9-12 Months.  VA DIC:  One Year+.  If benefit payments start earlier--great! Surviving spouses become angry and upset when they're informed of the expected timeline, and they try to blame the USG. Creating sufficient financial reserves is a family responsibility.  Does your family have adequate reserves to cover six months or more of living expenses including, but not limited to, medical care and monthly payments for home / property, vehicle, private school, etc.?  If your DD-214(s) must first be ordered from the NPRC (or branch of service), add an additional 3 months to your financial reserves.  A similar time delay applies when having to order a divorce decree(s).  Not having original or certified DD-214s, Divorce Decree(s) (for sponsor and spouse), and Thai spouses' Birth Certificate, are the top delays to benefits receipt.

• Marriage •

3.  Marriage.  Anecdotally, it seems the subject that tends to cause the most angst and denial of survivor benefits is not successfully meeting the *marriage* criteria--either not being legally married, or being married less than one year:  For VA SP or DIC, a marriage must have been over one year; or widow with a child by the veteran; or be pregnant by the veteran. Source:  http://cfr.vlex.com/vid/3-54-marriage-dates-19774098.  A survivor’s marriage to the sponsor must be deemed valid. While some U.S. states and some other countries legally recognize a de facto marriage as a valid marriage, the principle of a common law or de facto marriage is NOT recognized under Thai law:  http://www.thailandlawonline.com/thai-family-and-marriage-law/civil-law-sections-conditions-of-marriage (Sections 1457 & 1458).

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service •

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) •
Defense Finance & Accounting Service
U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
P.O. Box 7131
London, KY 40742-7131
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or 1-216-522-5955
Fax:  1-800-469-6559
Email:  Ask DFAS
• • •

4.  DFAS - Arrears of Pay (AOP).  Arrears of Pay is a one-time payment made to a beneficiary after your death.  The AOP payment to your beneficiary will include:  1) The pro-rated amount of your final month’s pay, and; 2) Any other money owed to you at the time of your death.  In most cases, Arrears of Pay will include the pro-rated amount of your final month's retirement pay.  This is because your entitlement to retirement pay ends on the date of your death.  When your death is reported, DFAS will reclaim your final month's pay and audit your account.  The amount of the payment actually owed to you will then be computed and given to your AOP beneficiary.  DFAS will also contact this person for help with closing your account.

5.  DFAS - Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).  Thai Citizens not taxed (Thai-U.S. Tax Treaty).  U.S. Citizens are taxed.  SBP was created by Congress in 1972 (began September 21, 1972) to put an end to the category of destitute survivors.  SBP provides a monthly annuity of 55 percent of the annuity base amount, cost-of-living adjusted, to the eligible spouse or children.  The monthly annuity for a natural person with an insurable interest is 55 percent of the amount of the gross retired pay after cost of participation is subtracted.  SBP is designed to protect your survivors against the risks of:  Your early death, survivor outliving benefits and inflation.  SBP is offset / reduced by VA DIC (paragraph 11 below) up to SBP's full amount.

• SBP Policy & Forms •
SBP Forms (DFAS)
DoD 7000.14-R, Vol. 7B (Ch. 42-54)  |  Premiums (Ch. 45)
Re-Starting SBP (Remarriage, et.al.) (DoD)
Survivor Benefit Plan:  DFAS  |  USAF Retiree Services
SBP (Other):  DoD  |  USA  |  USMC  |  USN  |  USCG
SBP & VA Benefits (Part IV, Ch. 26, para. 26.24)

      a.  Frequently Asked Question"I wasn't married when I retired, so I did not make an election under SBP.  If I get married after retirement, may I elect coverage for my spouse under SBP?"  In this scenario, you may elect SBP coverage for the first spouse you marry after retirement.  However, you must elect the coverage before the first anniversary of your marriage. Send a letter to DFAS (or use DD Form 2656-6) requesting SBP coverage for your spouse, and provide your Spouse's Name, Social Security Number, Date of Birth and a copy of the Marriage Certificate.

        b.  When a member retires the account is calculated per the laws in effect on how to establish the account.  Information may be found in DoD 7000.14-R, Vol 7B (Chapter 49) regarding how premiums were calculated prior to March 1986, and afterwards.  At retirement, full basic SBP for spouse and children takes effect automatically if you make no other valid election.  Furthermore, you may not reduce or decline spouse coverage without your spouse's written consent.  You may choose coverage for a former spouse or, if you have no spouse or children, you may be able to cover an "insurable interest" (e.g., a business partner or parent).  If you elect SBP you'll be required to pay a monthly premium. 

        c.  SBP Premiums (Chapter 45) and benefits are based on the "Annuity Base Amount" or benefit level that you elect. Your base amount can be any amount between $300 per month and full retired pay.  For those who opt for full coverage, the Annuity Base Amount is a figure that is slightly higher than Gross Pay.  Further, SBP premiums are not based on 'disposable' income--in other words it is not based on the member's pay after deductions.  For example, the 'VA Waiver' is simply a deduction from pay required based on other laws.  This happens after the member has already retired and has had the account and SBP costs established.  Information may be found in DoD 7000.14-R, Vol 7B (Chapter 12) concerning waivers of retired pay.

         d.  Refund of SBP Costs (if Surviving Spouse receiving DIC, paragraph 11 below):  A refund is paid to your surviving spouse for the costs deducted for that part of the SBP benefit not received due to DIC being paid.  If the DIC payment offsets the entire SBP payment, all costs will be refunded.  These refunds are taxed as income to the survivor since they were not taxed when deducted from retired pay.  (Note:  Refunds are not made for:  1) Added costs associated with 1992-93 Open Season enrollments/changes, or; 2) Enrollment costs associated with 1999-2000 Open Season elections).  Information may be found in DoD 7000.14-R, Vol 7B (Chapter 46) concerning premium refund due to DIC award.

         e.  RAO Note:  SBP is a benefit that can quickly and easily become complicated.  Therefore, the single best advice we can offer you on this topic is for you to contact DFAS directly to discuss your personal situation.

• Social Security Administration •

• Social Security Administration - Manila •
Social Security Administration
United States Embassy
1201 Roxas Blvd.
Manila, Philippines 1000
Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723

6.  Social Security Administration - U.S. Embassy, Manila.  SSA Manila prefers that benefits applicants contact them directly (instead of contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate).

        a.  Telephone Interviews.  SSA prefers to conduct telephone interviews with applicants, therefore, SSA will phone you from their Manila office when you provide your telephone number.  Note:  If you ever receive an unsolicited phone call or email purporting to be from a government agency or commercial business (i.e., you didn't initiate contact with them), beware of a possible *phishing* attempt.

        b.  Certified Documents.  SSA requires that supporting documents be certified (no cost at ACS when documents are used to apply for U.S. Federal benefits), and must be sent by ACS to SSA--in order to maintain document integrity.

7.  Social Security Survivor Benefits.  U.S. Citizen children may be taxed.  Adult single U.S. Citizens are partially taxed if earning over $25K/Year.  Thai Citizens (non-resident aliens) who are eligible to be paid in Thailand (residency requirements) are taxed at 30% of 85% of your benefit--an effective tax rate of 25.5%.  The 25.5% tax is a flat tax--it is not withholding, and is non-refundable.  SSA benefit amount prior to the tax reduction is the amount that offsets the VA's Survivors Pension (SP) (paragraph 10 below).  If the SSA net amount paid to a Thai citizen residing in Thailand is less than the VA SP amount, do not apply.  Moreover, the U.S. does not have a Social Security agreement with Thailand, and the Thai-U.S. Tax Treaty specifically excludes U.S. Social Security benefits.

         a.  If you are not a U.S. citizen (child or adult), you must have lived in the United States for at least five years.   During those five years, the family relationship on which benefits are based must have existed.  The residency requirement will not apply to you if you meet any of the following conditions:  1) You were initially eligible for monthly benefits before January 1, 1985, or; 2) You are entitled on the record of a worker who died while in the U.S. military service or as a result of a service-connected disease or injury.  Source:  http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10137.html.

          b.  Your unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when you die.  NoteResidency requirements apply--also be advised: "...children adopted outside the United States will not be paid outside the United States, even if the residency requirement is met."  (RAO Note:  If in doubt, contact SSA Manila to discuss your case specifics).

          c.  Death.  When a Social Security beneficiary dies, a benefit is not payable for the month of death.  For example, if a beneficiary died any time in June, the payment dated July (which is payment for June) should be returned to sender.

TRICARE Overseas

8.  See the RAO webpage's *Benefits & Entitlements* section for:  TRICARE Overseas and TRICARE & Medicare.

• Department of Veterans Affairs •

• Department of Veterans Affairs •
Fact Sheets  |  Forms  |  Publications (WARMS)
Survivor Benefits:  Home  |  Eligible Wartime Periods
Valid Marriage:  VA Marriage  |  Thai Civil Code (1457-1458)
Appointment of Representative:  Individual  |  VSO
Authorization to Disclose Information:  VA 21-0845
• • •
            • • •
• VA Regional Office - Pittsburgh •
Tel:  1-412-395-6272
Veterans Affairs Regional Office
Fax:  1-412-395-6091
ATTN:  Foreign Team, Room 1514
Tel:  1-800-827-1000 (VA General Contact)
1000 Liberty Ave.
Email:  IRIS
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4004

9.  VA - Arrears of Pay (AOP).  Officially known as *Accrued Benefits Due a Deceased Beneficiary*.  Accrued benefits are benefits that were due the beneficiary at the time of death but not paid prior to death.  Entitlement to accrued benefits is determined according to the line of succession established by law.

10.  VA Survivors Pension (SP).  (Formerly known as *Death Pension*).  Not Taxed.  Based on need.  Offset/reduced by Social Security (scroll down to *Survivors Pension*). Survivors Pension is a needs-based benefit paid to an eligible unremarried surviving spouse, or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran.  There are a number of criteria that may affect eligibility to receive pension benefits.  VA pays the difference between 'countable income' and an annual rate of payment established by Congress (Survivors Pension Calculation).  Please also see *SBP* (paragraph 5 above) if you've already elected, or are thinking about electing SBP.  SBP & VA Benefits (Death Pension & DIC, VBA M21-1, Part IV, Ch. 26, para. 26.24, p. 26-IV-4).

11.  VA Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)Not Taxed.  Not offset by another benefit, but DIC does offset/reduce SBP dollar-for-dollar.  DIC is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of a military service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, OR veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, OR veteran whose death resulted from a non- service-related injury or disease, and who was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for at least 10 years immediately before death, OR since the veteran’s release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death, OR for at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999. Please also see *SBP* (paragraph 5 above) if you've already elected, or are thinking about electing SBP.  SBP & VA Benefits (Death Pension & DIC, VBA M21-1, Part IV, Ch. 26, para. 26.24, p. 26-IV-4).

• Trusted Helper •

12.  Trusted Helper.  Perhaps the most important thing you as the sponsor can do now is to identify an honest, trustworthy, and reliable person to assist your dependents after your passing.  Do you want your loved ones falling prey to a person(s) motivated by greed?  Someone who promises assistance, but only in return for compensation?  We wouldn’t!  Yet, those persons exist--we've seen it, and we don't provide assistance to clients who are connected with those persons.  (RAO Benefits Advisors proudly render assistance for FREE).  Also, please choose someone who will work with us, not against us--we don't have time for hindrance, and we don't indulge it.  RAO Benefits Advisors know how to properly assist survivors of fallen comrades, and we stand ready to do so!

• Pay Suspension •

13.  Pay Suspension.  Surviving family member beneficiaries who are experiencing pay suspension with DFAS, OPM, SSA, or VA benefits should respectively contact Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS), OPM, SSA Manila, the VA Pension Management Center (PMC) directly, or for SSA and VA pay issues, they may visit U.S. Citizen Services (ACS) (U.S. Embassy  |  U.S. Consulate General) for assistance (Note:  ACS is unable to assist with DFAS issues). Regarding RAO assistance to eligible surviving family members, due to mission rightsizing the RAO's prime focus is assisting U.S. military retirees residing in Thailand followed by providing Survivor Assistance to their eligible survivors and is no longer able to assist with *typical* VA or SSA pay suspension issues for surviving family members.  English-speaking beneficiaries can fix issues much easier and faster by themselves--directly contacting the pertinent agency brings much swifter resolution, often immediate--this fact is proven time and again.

• Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) •
Defense Finance & Accounting Service
Tel:  1-800-321-1080 or 1-216-522-5955
Cleveland Center
Fax:  1-216-522-5898
P.O. Box 998005
Email:  Ask DFAS
Cleveland, OH 44199-1126
• • •

• Office of Personnel Management •
Office of Personnel Management
Tel:  1-888-767-6738
Retirement Operations Center
Fax:  N/A
P.O. Box 45
Boyers, PA 16017
• • •

• Social Security Administration - Manila •
Social Security Administration
Tel:  +63-2-301-2000 Ext. 9
United States Embassy
Fax:  +63-2-708-9723
1201 Roxas Blvd.
Manila, Philippines 1000
• • •

• VA Pension Management Center - Philadelphia •
Philadelphia VAROIC
Tel:  1-877-294-6380
Pension Management Center
Fax:  1-215-381-3113
5000 Wissahickon Ave.
Fax:  1-215-381-3777 (Only for VA 21-0845)
P.O. Box 8079
Email:  IRIS
Philadelphia, PA 19101
• • •

• Direct Deposit •

• General Information •

1.  Direct Deposit.  People applying for Social Security, veterans benefits, or other federal benefits on or after May 1, 2011, will receive their payments electronically starting with their first payment.  By March 1, 2013, everyone (except for certain recipients born prior to May 1, 1921) receiving federal benefits by paper check were required to have switched to electronic payments.  With Direct Deposit, the U.S. Treasury will deposit the money directly into your bank account every month. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about your check if you travel or move--but, you should always update your address with the U.S. Government agency that issues your monthly check.  For more information regarding Direct Deposit, please view the following:  U.S. Consulate, Chiang Mai  |  DFAS - Direct Deposit.  Direct Deposit Sign-Up Form:  SF-1199A.

• Bangkok Bank •

2.  Direct Deposit in Thailand.  Bangkok Bank is presently the only U.S. Government-authorized provider of Direct Deposit services in Thailand for persons who receive U.S. Federal benefits from the following agencies:  DFAS, OPM, SSA, and VA. Funds first go to the New York Branch and are then transferred to Bangkok.  Present Fees:  0.25% of the Sum, minimum 200 Baht and maximum 500 Baht, and a New York Branch transfer fee based upon amount being transferred.

       a.  Basic Facts.  A Bangkok Bank *Direct Deposit* account is strictly a savings account and with *only a single name permitted on the account*--no joint accounts, no online banking, no ATM Card, and no checks.  Due to Bangkok Bank's fraud prevention policy, you must appear in-person each month to withdraw your funds.  On the upside, with Bangkok Bank's Direct Deposit Service, funds are converted into Thai Baht at the higher, more favorable Telegraphic Transfer (T/T) exchange rate in Thailand (as compared to using a foreign (U.S.) ATM card in Thailand--180 Baht per transaction and funds are converted into Thai Baht at the lower exchange rate for ATM transactions).  Lastly, if you already have, or sign up for, a Bangkok Bank Direct Deposit account, you may also transfer funds--in-person--from your direct deposit account into another Bangkok Bank savings account which offers internet banking and ATM card.

        b.  Online Funds Transfer from a U.S. Bank to Bangkok Bank.  If you are using direct deposit to a U.S. Bank and are also using the internet banking service of  a  U.S. bank, you may transfer funds from your U.S. bank account by using domestic interbank menu to any Bangkok Bank account by stipulating the 9-digit routing number for Bangkok Bank’s New York branch (026008691) in your transfer instruction.  Funds will be transferred via the U.S. ACH system directly to your Bangkok Bank account in Thailand, for a lower fee than most other international wire transfer services.  This method employs the same fee structure as Bangkok Bank’s direct deposit service.  Fees are subject to change without prior notice. Contact Bangkok Bank directly for terms and conditions.  If choosing to sign up for Direct Deposit Service with Bangkok Bank, visit your local Bangkok Bank branch to do so.  Bangkok Bank Direct Deposit, Telephone:  02-230-1323.

          RAO Comment:  Married persons who are each receiving one or more monthly annuities must establish separate Bangkok Bank Direct Deposit accounts from each other, but individually you may have more than one annuity deposited into a single direct deposit account (e.g., DFAS, OPM, SSA, VA, etc.).  As well, single persons may have more than one monthly annuity deposited into a single direct deposit account.  Your local area Bangkok Bank branch establishes your direct deposit account (when you've met all their requirements) and prepares the SF-1199a Direct Deposit Sign Up form and submits it to the relevant agency (DFAS, OPM, SSA, VA, etc.).  When signing up for a Bangkok Bank direct deposit account, bring your passport and the award letter and/or annuity statement proving your eligibility to be receiving that monthly annuity.  Bangkok Bank may request additional information depending upon case specifics.

• Internal Revenue Service (IRS) •

• Individual Income Tax •

1.  Do I still have to file a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return if I live in Thailand?  Many U.S. citizens living abroad mistakenly believe they do not have to file and/or pay U.S. taxes.  Leaving the country does not exempt U.S. citizens from their U.S. tax obligations.  While some retirees may not owe any U.S. income tax while they are living abroad, U.S. citizens are normally required to file a U.S. tax return each year, provided they have earned a minimum income, an amount that varies with income, marital status, and age.  This is the case even if you move all of your assets to a foreign country--you may still be taxed on income regardless of where it is earned.  As always, your unique financial situation dictates whether or not you actually need to file a tax return.  For specific information, please see IRS Publications 54 & 17, and/or consult a U.S. tax professional.  Also Visit:  Foreign Financial Account and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

       a.  Retirees abroad must also fulfill any tax obligations of their foreign country of residence.  The United States has tax treaties with a number of countries that address double taxation, but these treaties generally don't exempt residents from the obligation to file a return.  Retirees who acquire any assets abroad should also consider the need to modify estate plans, since those assets may be subject to local estate tax rules.  Insurance is another factor to consider with assets acquired overseas.  Most U.S. umbrella liability policies don't cover international assets.  For more information, please review the IRS’s tax information for U.S. Citizens & Resident Aliens Abroad.

      b.  Basic annual Income Tax preparation can easily be completed by pen and paper, online or by purchasing tax preparation software.  Of course, you may also contact a brick-and-mortar tax preparation service if you don't feel comfortable using an online service, or don't wish to prepare it yourself.  ACS (U.S. Embassy):  Taxes + Tax Preparers.

• Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) •

RAO Webmaster's Note:  There are various reasons why an ITIN may be needed.  For purposes of the ITIN discussion here, the reason is for:  "A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who elects to file a joint U.S. tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien."

2.  Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  With the exception of unique, case-by-case situations, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) normally will not issue a Social Security Number to a non-resident alien spouse residing in Thailand.  Thus, presuming a non-resident alien spouse is ineligible to be issued a U.S. Social Security Number, in order to file a joint U.S. Federal Income Tax Return, a non-resident alien spouse must apply for an ITIN (IRS W-7, Instructions W-7) and enter it in the block for the Social Security Number on the applicable variant of IRS Form 1040 being used.  Further, the IRS will normally delay processing an ITIN application until a tax return is filed (unless the ITIN is needed for another reason).  (Note:  An ITIN is issued by the IRS, not by SSA).  When possible (and of course, when required), send authorized *copies* of documents to the IRS in lieu of sending *originals*.  (RAO Note:  Even though sending original Thai documents to the IRS is an authorized option (the IRS returns originals to the applicant), the applicant doubles the risk of losing an original document in the mail.  How would your Thai spouse feel if her/his Thai passport went MIA?).

3.  General ITIN Info & How to Apply.  Once the ITIN applicant has assembled the documentation required by the IRS to prove *foreign status* and *identity*, a Thai applicant has three choices for document submission:  1) Send *originals* to the IRS (the IRS will return originals); 2) Submit a *certified* (legalized) copy of their Thai documentation that was *Legalized* by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or; 3) Make an appointment and visit U.S. Citizen Services (ACS) (U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General) to have their Thai documentation *notarized* (embossed seal) by ACS.  Previously, *Legalization* and *Notarization* were both required by the IRS, but now it's either-or (or send originals).  The ACS fee for notarization is $50 per document.  If you choose the ACS *Notarization* option, ACS will attach to IRS Form W-7 the notarized copy(ies) of your Thai documentation.  Lastly, neither ACS nor RAO track the Thai MFA legalization fee.  Contact the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn more about Legalization.

• SSA & Green Card Holders •

4.  Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders).  For U.S. income tax purposes, lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are considered resident aliens until their lawful permanent resident status under the immigration laws is either taken away or is administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.  Social security (SSA) benefits paid to a green card holder are not subject to 30% withholding.  If you are a green card holder and tax was withheld in error on your SSA benefits because you have a foreign address, the withholding tax is refundable by SSA or the IRS.

• Absentee Voting •

1.  Federal Voting Assistance Program.  Voting is a constitutional right that American citizens eighteen years and older can freely exercise.  The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) covers all active-duty members of the Uniformed Services and their families, members of the merchant marine and their families, and U.S. citizens who reside overseas, and assists them in exercising their right to vote.  Elections are managed individually by all 55 states and territories.  This means that there are 55 sets of rules for absentee voting by UOCAVA citizens.  The website provides UOCAVA citizens with the state-specific information they need to register to vote and request and return their ballot, or to complete an emergency back-up write-in ballot.  If you wish to perform any of these tasks, go to the link above and choose the "Get Started" button under the category of UOCAVA citizen that describes you.

• Space-A Flights - *Singapore* •

Space-A (Official)
Other Singapore Info
Space-A (Unofficial):  Paya Lebar AB (RAO info sheet)
Space-A (Unofficial):  Space-A  |  Pepperd
Sembawang PSANGIS Singapore (Lodging)  |  MWR
Telephone Singapore:  +65-6280-0624

1.  Space-A Travel.  *** None in Thailand ***  Space-A flight availability in and out of Thailand ended in 2007 due to mission changes.  The nearest Space-A aerial port is Singapore Passenger Terminal (RSAF Paya Lebar AB).  When traveling Space-A be prepared to fly commercial if problems arise.  The key to a stress-free trip is to have a plan.  Have enough money for all contingencies, and be mentally prepared for disappointment when plans and planes don't come together. Have a Safe Trip!

2.  Military Lodging.  *** None in Thailand ***  The nearest U.S. military lodging facility is in Singapore at PSA Sembawang.

• Visiting Thailand •

• U.S. Information •
• Thailand Information •
Local Police:  Emergency Dial 191
Tourist Police:  Dial 1155 (specialized in Tourist assistance)
Emergency Assistance:  DoS  |  Bangkok  |  Chiang Mai
• • •

• Traveling to Thailand •

1.  Traveling to Thailand.  The 'Land of Smiles' certainly has many wonderful things to see and do across a wide range of traveler preferences.  Individual traveler tastes run the gamut of traditional tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism, etc. Along those lines, we frequently are asked to recommend hotels, specific activities, and the best means of travel inside Thailand. Even so, there are too many options, all unique to a traveler's personal tastes, price point, travel time, desired destination, etc., and as a result, we must limit our help to just answering basic questions.  Since the ease of use of the internet makes trip planning relatively easy, we provide basic travel links and information below to help you get started.

        a.  Planning.  To begin, TripAdvisor (unofficial) is a well-known, usually reliable global Trip Planning and Travel Review site. The following internet links address some of the more commonly asked Thailand-specific questions:  Airports of Thailand  | State Railway of Thailand  | Provincial Buses (Unofficial).  Also, the local Expat Forum (unofficial) is a closely-moderated, no-cost resource across a wide range of topics.  Regarding provincial transportation, another usually safe and reliable means is the widely available car/mini-van service--contact your hotel for information on their service (usually a little more expensive) or local availability.  While it's also possible to hire a street taxi for the day, doing so invites a certain measure of risk.  Lastly, as in any culture, Thailand has its share of cultural taboos.  The largest, and also legally-protected, big NO-NO is disparaging the Thai monarchy (aka Lese Majeste)--don't do it, it's that simple.

        b.  English is not widely spoken outside of typical tourist locations, and even in tourist locations it's often hit and miss, especially with local bus operators, songtaews (covered pick-up truck; Baht Bus) and State Railway staff (to name a few). Visitors should speak English slowly and clearly, and use simple words to convey your message.  Further, if a taxi or tuk-tuk driver, or "tout" tells you, "Today Palace closed special ceremony, I take you go ______", don't fall for it!  They're paid.

• Medical Care •

2.  Medical Care.  Medical treatment is generally adequate in Thailand’s urban areas.  In Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya, good facilities exist for routine, long-term, and emergency health care.  Basic medical care is available in rural areas, but English-speaking providers are rare.  ACS Bangkok:  Medical Emergencies.

       a.  "What medical benefits are available to me?"  Short Answer:  DEPENDS.  Generally speaking, 100% payment is required up front (out-of-pocket) for medical treatment received in Thailand regardless if eligible beneficiaries use TRICARE (also see TRICARE - JUSMAGTHAI) or the VA Foreign Medical Program (only for service-connected medical conditions). There is no Military Treatment Facility or VA Medical Facility in Thailand.  More below from the U.S. State Department:

        b.  Health Issues Abroad.  Healthcare tops the list of concerns for many U.S. citizens who are thinking about moving abroad.  Obtaining medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be expensive, and medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost more than $50,000.  Note that U.S. medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States, nor do the Social Security Medicare and Medicaid programs provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the U.S.  In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service.  Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries.

        c.  Medical Insurance Overseas.  You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel or relocate outside the U.S.  It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave if you will have medical insurance overseas.  You need to ask your insurance company (or benefits agency) two questions:  1) "Does my policy apply when I’m out of the U.S.?" 2) "Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?"  If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip.

• Pedestrian Safety •

3.  Pedestrian Safety.  Please be advised and acutely aware that pedestrian safety, be it crossing a road or simply walking along a footpath, is a risky adventure.  Vehicular traffic often ignores traffic signals and pedestrians, and in many locations you'll frequently encounter one of the omnipresent motorbikes riding on the footpath--expecting you to yield to them. Furthermore, please be advised that basic physical access for certain persons with disabilities is often extremely difficult to find, notably in Bangkok (mass transit is a perfect example).

• Automated Teller Machines (ATM) •

4.  ATMs.  Plentiful.  Thai Banks currently charge a transaction fee of 180 Baht when using a foreign bank ATM Card.  The 180 Baht transaction fee is in addition to any fees imposed by your bank.  OANDA Currency Converter.

• U.S. State Department •

• Register with the U.S. Embassy •

1.  Register with the U.S. Embassy.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens, even those visiting Thailand for a short time, to Register with the Embassy’s Consular Section.  Being that online registration requires a nine-digit Passport #, if you have an older seven-digit # that begins with an alpha character, don't enter the alpha character but do enter two "zeroes" before your seven-digit #.  In the event of an emergency, the Embassy will provide information and other critical assistance to U.S. citizens.  Registration is the only way to guarantee that the Embassy is aware of your presence in the country and is able to contact you and assist you in such circumstances.  Registering also provides delivery straight to your email inbox Emergency Messages & Announcements.  Registration is fast and easy.  Please take a few moments to do so.

• Consular Services •

2.  U.S. Citizen Services (ACS).  For complete services visit:  U.S. Embassy, Bangkok  |  U.S. Consulate, Chiang Mai.

       a.  Appointments.  You must have an appointment for non-emergency services.  Appointments must be made on-line by using the ACS Appointment System website.  U.S. citizens who come to the Embassy or Consulate for non-emergency services, but who do not have an appointment, will not be able to receive non-emergency services, such as routine passport applications and renewals, additional visa pages, notary or report of birth services at that time.

3.  Consular Outreach.  Outreach dates are posted here.  Email ACS:  acsbkk@state.gov  |  Telephone ACS:  02-205-4049.

• Some Things We *Don't* Do •

1.  Foreword.  As in any professional organization boundaries are established, limits are set, and policy is adhered to.  The following commonly brought up topics are outside of the charter and scope of a Retiree Activities Office, or violate established directives or Federal law.

2.  Loan or Gift Money.  The RAO is not an aid organization.  One of the many valuable skills the military taught all of us is personal responsibility and initiative, particularly when it comes to properly managing personal finances needed for life's daily necessities and medical care.  That being said, even when we make the correct choices, "Life" sometimes happens to the best of us and emergencies arise that eclipse a standard six-month financial reserve (or higher reserve if you have large medical expenses).  Very often the best course of action is to return to the U.S. where public and private assistance is more readily available.  Limited emergency assistance is available through the U.S. State Department:  Bangkok  |  Chiang Mai.

3.  Promote Private Businesses.  The RAO doesn't promote, support, or endorse any specific private businesses.

4.  Political Issues.  We realize some of you are very passionate about certain issues--such as having to pay DoD health care fees, or that the VA Foreign Medical Program *only* covers VA-rated service-connected medical conditions.  But, as an example, forcefully ranting or unprofessionally venting your displeasure on the TRICARE nurses or RAO staff doesn't benefit anyone (especially YOU when assistance to you is terminated), and doesn't help effect change.  RAO staff members acting in an official capacity are not authorized to contact elected officials, but you most certainly may.

5.  Retiree Mail & APO Mail Boxes.  RAO personnel are not authorized to retrieve or open mail from retiree mail boxes.

6.  American Forces Network (AFN).  Visit:  http://myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil/.

7.  Copier Service & Office Supplies.  The RAO isn't the neighborhood "Kinkos".  The copier is for RAO Official Use Only. Should anyone else have the urge to debate this point, we refer you to the time-honored Thai expression "You talk alone." The same applies to asking us for office supplies--don't embarrass yourself by doing so.  There are numerous printing and office supply stores in Thailand--avail yourself.

8.  Employment Listings.  The RAO doesn't track expat employment opportunities (very limited) nor do we participate in networking.  U.S. Federal Jobs:  FedsHireVets  |  OPM  |  USAJobs  |  VA Jobs.

9.  Historical Queries.  The RAO does not possess unit historical information nor knows of any specific office that does. Concerning service treatment records during the Vietnam War period, hospitals in Thailand destroyed medical records five years after a patient's last visit due to the lack of available storage facilities for the immense volume of records created.

10.  Plan Your Trip or Move to Thailand.  Plainly speaking, trip or relocation planning is YOUR personal responsibility--especially if you're going to travel or move half-way around the globe.  Besides, there are too many details, all unique to an individual's personal tastes, finances, etc., and as a result, we must limit our assistance to just answering basic questions (please also see our Space-A and Visiting Thailand sections).

11.  Your Income Taxes.  We don't order or print tax materials, nor do your income taxes.  For IRS info, please start here.

12.  Consular Appointments & Outreach Schedule.  Links to U.S. State Department info is on this page here.

13.  Adoption Information.  Intercountry adoption is governed by both the laws of the country in which the child lives and the country in which the adoptive parents live.  Often legally complex.

14.  Thai Immigration.  The RAO regularly receives requests for information concerning Thai Immigration Policy, but we decline to answer specific questions.  Thai Immigration historically has made short-notice changes to Visa and Entry requirements, and it's well known that their rules are not applied uniformly between Immigration Offices and Royal Thai Embassies or Consulates.  Case-in-Point from a Royal Thai Consulate in the U.S.:  "Regulations are subject to change without notice."  "Consular officers reserve the right to request additional documents as deemed necessary."  The U.S. Embassy (Bangkok) provides some information on Thai Visas for Americans.

        • RAO Comment:  The RAO recommends you direct your questions to the specific Thai immigration office, embassy, or consulate having jurisdiction over your case or geographic area.  Also, the local Expat Forum (UNOFFICIAL) contains recurring information on Thai immigration, but common sense dictates how you use any information you may find there. Again, the local online expat forum is UNOFFICIAL.

15.  U.S. Immigration.  The RAO regularly receives requests for information concerning U.S. Immigration Policy, but we decline to answer questions.  We also sometimes receive angry phone calls (and visitors) when a Visa to the U.S. has been denied for a spouse or loved one.  Our office has ZERO involvement or leverage with the Visa process.  We understand your frustration--there's absolutely nothing our office can do.  Links to U.S. State Department info is on this page here.

• Thank You for Serving! •

       Thank You to the many professional individuals who continue to help us to help you by sharing topical information across a variety of subjects.  Operating a credible and functional RAO takes a collaborative effort, one we cannot do alone. Thank You for Serving!