Today’s Guest Column is from Dave Starr. Dave addresses a subject that is quite important, US Military Retirees living in the Philippines. Let’s read more and see what Dave has to say:
Hi, for those who haven’t met me yet I’m Dave Starr, and American citizen residing in Marilao, Bulacan in central Luzon, very close to Metro Manila. I’ve been living substantially in Asian countries for a big part of the past 20 years and have been a regular visitor to the Philippines for nearly 8 years now. My wife, Mita (who holds both US and Philippine citizenship) was born in Quezon City and has made her home in several other Asian countries as well is being with me in the US for 6 years or so. I’ve also lived in the UK and in Germany, so we are pretty much an international couple. One thing you might be figuring out from that travelogue is that to have lived in all those places I must be old … and I am, a little bit, I’m 62 this year, a bit older than Bob and many of the regular readers here.
One of the things that also sets me apart from many of the Live in the Philippines blog ‘crowd’ is, I’m a US military retiree and also am also retired from the US Civil Service, so I have some unique benefits and even an out and out privilege or two that makes the Philippines a great place to live, for my wife and I.
Several of hose “good things” have come about and are in place today because of the efforts of several unique and dedicated volunteer organizations here in the Philippines known as the RAO (Retired Activities Office). In general these are organizations “of military retirees, for military retirees” but if you aren’t a retiree don’t stop reading just yet … the several RAO’s here in the Philippines offer a number of resources of interest to anyone, even non-US folks, and they also offer some services to non-military US citizens.
The RAO’s were formed years ago, long before the US bases closed, to provide a central point for military retirees who were no longer living on or even near the bases, and who were not directly supported by the US military. Military retirees in general can live anywhere they choose, but even in countries that still host US forces the “official” US military seldom offers much support … in many countries it’s not even allowed by the host country.
When the US bases went away in 1991, several gentlemen grabbed the bull by the horns and moved existing RAO’s off the former US installation (all now Philippine government property) and into rented quarters in surrounding towns. The two largest groups, the Subic bay RAO and the Clark Field (Angeles City) RAO were part of this effort. Both today exist in private rented offices and are supported entirely by membership dues and contributions (The US government does not fund them). There is also an active Manila RAO with offices near the US Embassy (no web site) and there may be others I have missed … is so, let me know and I’ll make note).
One of the greatest assets these groups offer is right there in the links I just mentioned … there is a wealth of information and answers about living here in the Philippines on both web sites. Rental property, homes, schools, medical care, taxes and a lot of other day to day “how it is here” information.
For US citizens and their spouses, the Angeles RAO is the only place I know of in the Philippines where an alien spouse of a US citizen can get an IRS ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). If you marry in the Philippines and your new wife doesn’t have a Social Security number yet (and won’t ever get one, unless she legally travels to the US) you’ll need an ITIN for her if you wish to file jointly. In the past couples could just file with the spouse showing “applied for” but it’s not that way any more. Little things like that are the sorts of services your RAO’s can help with … for any US citizen.
Another thing I feel is very useful to anyone on these websites are lists of medical facilities that are already certified under the military retiree health care program, TRICARE. Of course TRICARE is only for retirees, but a clinic that already deals regularly with US government billing and reporting standards may be a good place to deal with for your own medical care … of course, YMMV.
And of course I gave to mention the RAO’s number one service … this one is restricted to US military and civil service retirees… US mail service. The US government moves mail to the embassy in Manila as part of the embassy mission. Several RAO’s pick up and drop off mail at the embassy and distribute it throughout the Philippines as a service (for a small fee) to retirees. Frankly I have sued my US mail privilege a lot less than I thought I would, (snail mail is dying a pretty rapid death) but it’s still a nice little touch of home to have the messenger drop off a packet of genuine US mail at my door. And at the rate I send “snail mail” back to the US, the roll of stamps I brought with me here ought to last the next 150 years or so … wonder how much a US First class letter will cost by then?
There are quite a few satellite offices of the RAO in the Philippines … and a lot of folks at the main offices who have always been very helpful to me … so if you have a specific question you don’t know the answer to, or wonder if you might be entitled to a particular service, feel free to email either Chief Jim Boyd at the Angles RAO or Chief Chester Gross at Subic (after you’ve looked for the answer on their sites, of coursed) … or I’ll be happy to take questions as well at davestarr (at) gmail (dot) com or on my blog where I cover many of these subjects myself, www.philfaqs.com