Im in this too, filling out the online app as we speak and came to that too. My app is paused with a re-entry number.
Im on another forum that talks about SSA in more detail, but I called SSA about this question and they also have abundant things to read too.
First of all, by law, you have to report all doings to SSA, like marriage, kids
, divorce, re-marriage, starting a business, ending a business, living abroad, any kind of life change and if you dont your benefits can be cut off.
Its true, on one hand its for payment purposes, like knowing where to send your payments, but its for all aspects of their annual benefit calculations. Just on this note alone, they send you an annual form and ask you the above questions and what in your life has changed, like getting a job, and maybe its in Panama for a year while your boat is repaired. Oh and by the way if you dont send that form back, they cut off your benefits so it cant be ignored.
They didnt not directly answer the question about "who cares how long im out" but you have to inform them. If you are abroad you report to your nearest US Embassy, even if its just to report you are still out more than 30 days.
You may have an additional problem because you are giving up your address. I was about to say keep your address and bank account and let them direct deposit every month and then you can transfer from there to whatever bank abroad. But there is a problem if you have given up the address and SSA has to send the payments and letters and forms to other people acting in your behalf. This may or may not work and you have to consult them.
Im not on a boat this moment but Ive been out for more than 30 on this particular trip and when I called them I said I was abroad having surgery (truth) and they said, "well ok, medical
is an approved reason to be abroad." Huh? What ISNT? Hmmm.
This is not to say you cannot retire abroad but there are rules about it, including informing them where you are and what you are doing there--by law. And by the way, 90% of the countries do not have reciprocal agreements to allow direct payments to your foreign country bank, only a few, so maintaining a US bank is obviously important. However, even here there can be snags, many banks in US do not allow americans to be out more than six months without being called a foreigner and therefore subject to the same banking rules as foreigners. You have to decide for yourself who you tell that you are leaving and who you dont. I wont come into a public blog and advocate anything but being truthful.
The SSA website has several consumer-oriented, detailed pamphlets in PDF format for reading. Read them all. Also search for POMS documents on the site which are the actual rules the SSA agents follow. Some of those you really need a lawyer to understand and as a newbie to SSA Ive been advised to keep a lawyer handy for fights. What fights? SSA told me they can cut, increase, modify benefits for any reason, anytime, without your knowledge or permission or rationale. So, some people hire lawyers.
So right now my advice is to keep SSA up to date on everything. For that, you can buy and maintain a MagicJack so you can call back to the US for free and also maintain what everyone will know as your local number so that you can receive calls from people like SSA. They will only see your local number but it will ring you anywhere in the world.
Last thing, when you start SSA there will be papers coming to your house--which is gone now. So tell them to call you, email
you, etc, because you are gone and cannot receive mail at home anymore.
Oh and very last thing for the moment, keep in mind that if you dont follow their rules and do get cut off, its very hard to get benefits reinstated.
I spent a month reading before I tried the online app. As an expat I find SSA to be a daunting thing.
If I have said anything wrong, I hope a more experienced person will chime in and make corrections. Im learning