Over the past few years I have been investigating the amount of veterans choosing to live out side of the US. I am a veteran and I wanted to see how many other veterans were living abroad and if they had the same experiences. I had found out that there are probably thousands from different sources, because obtaining an accurate count is proving to be impossible. It is impossible because many maintain a US mailing address where we show up as residents of these communities. Some do this because even in the computer age, the US government refuses to "direct deposit" our pension checks to a foreign country even though most banks in the U.S. do, so they have to maintain a US bank account. This is all made possible due to the availability of the Internet.
Common reasons for living abroad
The beautiful and historic surroundings, the climate, the friendly people, and the intriguing cultures that are abundant all over the world. These are all listed as reasons why veterans choose to live abroad. But far and away the most common and compelling reason is economic. The truth is, as unpopular as it is to say out loud, the United States is a very hard place to live on a low, fixed income. For this reason, a growing number of veterans like so many others are living the ex-patriot life in countries where their pensions are sufficient to allow for a comfortable lifestyle. Those of us who have decided to live abroad are referred to as "Expatriates". We are not "Ex" anything. We are not unpatriotic and we certainly are no less American for doing so. For me, the choice was easy, continue to work and earn just enough money to be short each month and continue to go slowly into bankruptcy, or, move to where my disability pensions permit me to still live a reasonable lifestyle. This is an ever increasing choice for veterans who have a limited, fixed income, such as retirement or VA disability pensions.
For me, I had met someone from Europe via the internet, and fell in love. With the differences in culture and being on different continents our past experiences seem to be similar. So eight months later we were married with all intention to live in the U.S. The visa process that is set up to bring your spouse to the U.S. was proving to be a challenge. While working on obtaining the visa from both sides of the world, paying all the fees for forms and processing, two calls to congressmen and still nothing was happening. After four months of no resolve, I moved abroad to be with my wife. Eight months after I arrived, we finally received notice that the Department of State Visa service was now working on our case. By this time we had already came to the conclusion that we will reside in Europe.
Now, several years later I have noticed that there is very little that I actually miss. The people that I come in contact with, socialize with, and work with all show appreciation for people whom have served there country and have gone to extremes to unite their family. With the use of the internet I keep up with all the recent events and news from all over the world, I don´t have to worry about the stereo types that I did, and I am able to go on with my life with the help of my family and friends.
Through out the years, I have had only a few problems while adapting to living abroad. The most annoying is was collecting notifications and my compensation checks from the veterans administration, I only now start having mail redirected to countries that are not even close to where I am living. The local embassy receives some mail and sends it to me within two days, but the if the V.A. sends me mail through the snail mail it takes two months to reach me.
With all the modern conveniences such as; high speed Internet communications, cable TV, Internet banking, online payment providers, and ATMs, those of us who live abroad are no less "in touch" than anyone else. We can still vote, pay income tax, (and for those who maintain a US presence, property taxes, school taxes, etc.) and continue to be United States citizens in all aspects. The bottom line is that taking your pension to another country where it goes much farther makes sense for some. For others, it doesn't.
We enjoy the difference in culture, the historical significance, and the various views of these other countries. Depending on the country and the economic position of the country, veterans living on a fixed income can continue to live without a lot of the hardships we have experienced in the past.