Can I Collect My Social Security in Mexico? The simple answer is – Yes. My husband, father, mother, and grandmother all receive their social security benefits in Mexico. My husband and father receive social security disability insurance and my mother and grandmother receive social security insurance. All of their benefits are automatically deposited to a US bank account. Then we withdrawal the money via various ATM machines in Mexico.
The Social Security Administration provides an in-depth pamphlet about payments while you are outside the US. CLICK HERE for a pdf version. Be sure to read this because there are restrictions on some social security payments outside the US.
Beyond the simple answer, collecting social security in Mexico can present a few hurdles, especially if you receive social security disability insurance and you come up for a review to verify that you are still disabled. Now as far as social security retirement insurance, if that is what you are receiving you won’t have to worry about being reviewed. Despite the difference, there is still some helpful information below for both types of social security insurance and moving out of the country.
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In 2016, my husband’s social security disability insurance came up for review and it literally took a year and a half to get it all figured out. This is a timeline of what my husband went through to continue to receive his social security disability insurance while living in Mexico:
- September 2016: First review letter arrives in the mail at our stateside address in Kentucky, USA. My father emailed us the information immediately. This included a Continuing Disability Review Report and was sent from Campbellsville, Kentucky.
- October 2016: Second review letter arrives in the mail. This also included a Continuing Disability Review Report; plus a Third Party Function Report; a Questionnaire for Epilepsy, Headaches, and/or Similar Disorders; and a Function Report. This packet was sent from London, Kentucky. We filled out all the paperwork and returned it to the social security office. (As if these reviews aren’t enough to cause anxiety, we had two social security offices reviewing Brad’s case due to a system error.)
- November 2016: Third review letter arrives in the mail. More information was required to process Brad’s claim and a phone call was requested. I think it was during this phone call that I informed the office that we are living in Mexico.
- February 2017: Fourth review letter arrives in the mail at our Mexico address in Michoacan, Mexico. It is from the Federal Benefits Unit at the American Embassy in Mexico City. Apparently, since we are living in Mexico the American Embassy would be handling Brad’s review and they needed additional information from Brad’s Mexican doctors.
- July 2017: Fifth review letter arrives in the mail. It requested that Brad have a medical exam and that we send the medical records to the Federal Benefits Unit. This letter was in Spanish and although we speak a little Spanish, when it comes to legal or medical matters, we really need to read the documents in English.
- August 2017: Sixth review letter arrives in the mail. It is the same letter as the previous letter only this time it is in English. During this whole process, we were doing our best to provide the requested information, as well as talking to social security representatives on the phone and via email. So everything was confusing and it was basically a paperwork disaster.
- August 2017: During one of our phone calls to the Embassy we were informed that Bradley needed to visit Mexico City for two doctor’s appointments. We made the trip and both doctors were completely unqualified for Brad’s care. One was an internal doctor and the other was a child psychologist. We did not feel like they would provide the necessary information for Brad’s disability, (damage from a brain injury in 2001), so as soon as we returned home we made appointments with a neurologist and an adult psychiatrist in our city of Uruapan.
- October 2017: Seventh review letter arrives in the mail and this time it’s from Disability Determination Services in Kentucky, USA again. I thought we already settled the fact that we were in Mexico but I guess not. This letter included 22 pages of paperwork to be filled out, the same paperwork we had completed a year before. And the big surprise… the offices in Kentucky set up two appointments for Bradley with doctors… in Kentucky! I called immediately and told them this wasn’t going to happen because we were living in Mexico. Apparently, despite communicating with the offices at the Embassy in Mexico City, Bradley was still in the United States system. It was during this phone call I was informed of Form SSA-21 or Supplement to Claim of Person Outside the United States. We filled this form out immediately and sent it to the Kentucky office.
Don’t make the same mistake we did! If you are moving anywhere outside the US, read the pamphlet above, fill out Form SSA-21,and take it to your local social security office before you leave the country. It will save you a lot of headache!
- March 2018: Eighth review letter arrives in the mail. Once again, the American Embassy is requesting a medical exam for Bradley. What?! We just did this in August. What happened to the information from those doctors in Mexico City? Brad’s caseworker could not find the information. I am so glad we were seeing the neurologist and psychiatrist in Uruapan. We had test results and prescriptions that we could send the office in the Embassy. They were content with this information.
- July 2018: Ninth and final review letter arrives in the mail. After a year and a half of dealing with one disability case review, we received a letter stating that Brad’s disability was continuing and he still qualifies for social security disability. We can not express the relief this letter provided. This review was over with a positive outcome!
This was our crazy and stressful experience with collecting social security disability in Mexico. When Brad’s next review comes up, I feel certain that it will not be as complicated because we won’t be dealing with offices from two countries. Plus Brad continues to see his psychiatrist in Uruapan and we can always send them those reports when they ask for medical references.
Besides our story above, two more things should be noted. One, all of the people working on Brad’s case were kind, considerate, and helpful. I am very thankful for this especially since we were a few years late filling out form SSA-21! Two, if you are in Mexico, (not sure about other countries), and you are dealing with the office at the American Embassy, expect your paperwork to be late. All of the letters we received from the Embassy had a due date for us to reply to. And all of the letters arrived at our home after the due date! That is mail in Mexico for you. It is very slow!
I hope in some small way this information helps you with your move to a new country! If so let me know in the comments below :-) Signing off, Tina
Originally published March 31, 2019
A ridiculous amount of coffee was consumed in the process of creating this project. Add some fuel if you'd like to keep me going ;-) Gracias!