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US Veterans in Costa Rica

August 21st, 2010

Costa Rica US veterans medical services availableI receive a fair number of inquiries from US veterans who are considering a move to Costa Rica. We also have a fair number of US vets living down here now. I do not have a handle as to exactly how many, but is has to be a few thousand or so with many more coming every year. I know this as I have met many on my private tours.

One vet who has lived here for a while is reader Rick Deahl who asked me if I would like to publish some information regarding medical and hospital services available to United States veterans living here in Costa Rica.

I jumped all over that, and this post is the result. If this topic is of interest to you, read on! I am not a vet, so if I screw up some terms, cut me some slack. If you wish to add information, correct me, please use the comments area at the bottom of this post. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised as to the breadth of the data and services available to vets. At the end of this post, look for a list of all web sites I could find that might be of value to vets living or coming to live in Costa Rica. Also, several links in this post require Adobe Reader be installed on your computer. Adobe Reader can be downloaded here.

Extensive medical benefits are available to vets living here.  By this I mean excellent medical care, access to specialists, hospitalization, prescriptions (either free or at a discount), and varying support services.

While it seems that some other hospitals do have some staff familiar with VA affairs, it appears that one hospital in particular is the best contact point and provider of all the services mentioned above.

Hospital Hotel La Católica (+506-2246-3000) also sometimes known as Clinica Católica is located in the San Jose suburb of Guadalupe. The hospital was known as Clínica Católica for twenty six years and was founded by Franciscan nuns.  Years later, the formal name was changed to Hospital Clínica Católica de la Purísima Concepcion Association or just Hospital Hotel La Católica.

Hospital Hotel La Católica actually has an American Legion office on the premises. The director Jim Young is the man in charge and he can be reached at +506-2246-3509.  He certainly would be a good place to start for gathering more detailed information than I can give in this post. His email is: jey08442[at]aol.com.

In order to receive benefits while living in Costa Rica, a veteran must first join the Foreign Medical Program to receive medical benefits.  Although pre-registration for eligible veterans is not necessary, veterans who are permanently relocating to a country under the FMP Office’s jurisdiction are encouraged to notify the FMP Office upon establishing a permanent foreign mailing address. The FMP registration form can be found here. Details on the FMP program can be downloaded (.PDF) here.

If you are traveling or reside in one of these countries, users may call  the following numbers to contact the FMP Office in Denver, Colorado.


Country Number
USA / Canada (877) 345-8179
Germany 0800-1800-011
Australia 1 800 354 965
Italy 800 782-655
UK 0800-032-7425
Mexico 001-877-345-8179
Japan 00531-13-0871
Costa Rica 0800-013-0759
Spain 900-981-776
Email:   hac.fmp@med.va.gov

The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is a Department of Veterans (VA) health care benefits program for U.S. veterans with VA rated service-connected conditions that are residing or traveling abroad. Under FMP, VA assumes payment responsibility for certain necessary health care services associated with the treatment of those service-connected conditions.General Program Requirements


The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is not part of the Medical Benefits Package. You don’t have to be enrolled in the VA health care system to participate.

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.

This means that 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.

The next thing you will need is all service paperwork. information on how you or a VA dependent can be found here. More information and who can request service records can be found here.

Basically, if you are eligible to receive copies of US military service records, you can must use Form 180 (SF-180). You can use this link to download Form 180.

You will need access to a printer and the Adobe Acrobat Reader software (see link above). The form is a total of 3 pages.

The SF-180 is formatted for letter size paper (8.5″ x 11″).  If your printer can not accommodate this, select “shrink to fit” when the Adobe Acrobat Reader “Print” dialog box appears.

This is also a fillable version of the SF-180. This means that it will allow you to type the needed information directly into the form using your keyboard.  You will then need to print, sign and mail the form.

To return the form to FMP, check out the tables on page 2 of SF 180 for the correct location of the desired record (based on branch of service, dates of separation, and type of record) and send the completed form there. The form may also be faxed.

To send by mail:

National Personnel Records Center

Military Personnel Records

9700 Page Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63132-5100

or by Fax

Our fax number for requesting military records is 314-801-9195.

The Center will respond in writing by U.S. Mail.

Response time?  Depending on the records requested, expect no less than ten days and in some cases, up to four months.


US vets who wish to live or retire in Costa Rica can receive excellent benefits with not a lot of hassle. Once registered, you can be assured of receiving fine medical care.

I hope you US vets find this post of value. I for one, appreciate your service to your country.

Other links and contacts of interest

Rick Deahl who is responsible for suggesting that I  write this post: rsdeal1 [AT} yahoo.com

Veterans Care International a great source of info here in Costa Rica.

American Legion Post 10 Costa Rica

Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)

GovBenefits.gov is the official benefits website of the U.S. government, with information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs.

National Veterans Foundation. More info on FMP, plus their home page provides much more info on vet matters.

VA Info for beneficiaries.

Military Record Requests

54 Responses to “US Veterans in Costa Rica”

  1. Paula Gilmour on August 22, 2010 7:10 am


  2. Bob Gieser on August 22, 2010 8:47 am

    This is a great service. I am not a veteran either. This is more of what web sites like yours can and should be doing. Keep up the good work.

  3. Thomas Chesley, USAF, RET on August 22, 2010 1:46 pm

    Great article! Now, if I can just moved there! Thanks!

  4. Michael on August 23, 2010 2:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog. I look forward to reading each update. Keep up the great work. I’m from L.A. and have been to CR 5 times (was engaged to a Tica, but it didn’t work out). Thank you : )

  5. Tim on August 23, 2010 6:55 pm

    Good luck!

  6. Doug on September 6, 2010 4:17 pm

    What about dependants using tricare?

  7. Daniel on September 6, 2010 8:49 pm

    What a great article! thanks for sharing this vital info!

  8. Tim on September 7, 2010 7:06 am

    Doug, Contact the person listed for details as they will have answers to all your questions.

  9. Mark D\'Andrea on September 28, 2010 7:23 am

    Good information. I am a Disabled Veteran with a service connected disability living in CR. I enrolled in The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) before moving here but haven’t used the services yet. I did however go to the US Embassy in CR to get more information about the program and was astounded that the person in charge of both the Social Security and Veterans Services knew nothing about the Veterans FMP. He took my name and copied the information that I had about the program and said he would follow up and get back to me next week. Well that was over a month ago… Pura Vida! This article is good and I am glad that it is posted here. I will make an update when I have used the FMP and let people know how the process went. You can find detailed info here about the program: http://www4.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/fmp/fmp.asp

  10. Costa Rica Hotel on October 22, 2010 7:12 pm

    I’m a vet who co-owns a an executive rental here in costa rica. vets really have no advantage here vs. anyone else.

  11. Irving M. Salos, PH.D. on December 12, 2010 7:14 pm

    Honestly, I found your blog totally by accident. Some things were meant to be I guess. This is a fantastic find. May I post this article about vets on my blog? Hope so! Thanks!

  12. Tim on December 14, 2010 7:07 am

    You may NOT.

    This blog is under copyright. You may cite it in your blog with appropriate linkage to this blog.

  13. David on December 24, 2010 4:36 pm

    Looking forward to retiring from USN. Great news. And it seems as if my pension will go a long way down in CR.

  14. james a murray on January 8, 2011 10:36 pm

    i just found your website,very interesting !! i”ll use what info that i can dig up . i am looking for a warm place to retire without losing my v.a. bennies. put me on any mailing list that popup’s.


  15. Virgie Demanski on January 9, 2011 4:57 pm

    Well, beyond just VA benefits, what about the retired military person and spouse, in general, entitled to lifetime Tricare benefits, which, unlike Medicare, are supposed to be available all over the world? My husband can qualifly for the VA benefits for service-connected problems, but both of us are covered with full Tricare for all health problems for our lifetimes. I have pre-existing conditions, which are pricey to treat, so this is an area I need to research first before even venturing on to other areas. If this is still an unknown, I can contact Tricare and find out for your site, and can let you know what I find.

  16. Maximillian on January 20, 2011 12:14 am

    I am a retired Vet that is disabled..I have visited Costa Rica twice already..I love it.Yes the food sucks if your use to Subway,BK, and other fast food joints…I need to loose a few pounds and lost quite a bit during my visits..
    I do want to move to Costa Rica on a perm. basis.
    If all go’s well…I’ll be making a perm move in about a yr.
    I do worry about the crime rate, kidnappings, murder rate ect
    Please e-mail me so that my move will be un eventful and stress free. thank you

  17. Ed Welsh on October 18, 2011 12:21 pm

    I’m retired military and have lived here for 25 years. I use Centro Medico del Sur in Heredia. Dr. Cambronero speaks English. I have never had a complaint. He sends me to a specialist for whatever problem, I take the bill to Cambronero, and he pays me that day. They bring my medications directly to the house. He manages his appointments so that there is practically no wait.
    Clinic# 2262-2525

  18. Mike Elam on February 21, 2012 4:31 pm

    I am veteran going to retire in Costa Rica late April or May 2012 Need all the info I can get any info on the best medical care I would appreciate it.

  19. Bruce Gibson on February 23, 2012 9:43 am

    I am glad that I found this biog. My wife and I are building a house in Santo Domingo de Heredia which should be done by this summer, hopefully, you know how things get done here in CR. I was wondering if you know if the VA is opening a clinic in San Jose? I have heard a rumor.

  20. Tim on March 26, 2012 1:35 pm

    I am sure they are not. They already are at Clinica Catolica. Please see this topic as it is covered in the blog.

  21. Tim on March 26, 2012 1:35 pm

    Already covered in detail in the Blog. Under VA

  22. Quentin on July 5, 2012 6:44 pm

    Thanks for the info! I am a 40% service disabled veteran and with the US demanding we pay more and more for less and less care of poor quality, I am looking at other nations. It would be nice to get to a nation with people who are not constantly rude, believe that serving and helping without being taxed to do it means you are greedy and who isn’t cutting your benefits to give them to others. Add in they keep adding and changing regulations on my small business with more inspectors constantly sent around in hopes of fining me in to closing so they can add more to their coffers and I am about done with the USA.

    Hopefully we can visit there this winter to look at things in person and if I can start working there for a bit to get us set up and make sure it is the right place for us, we will be living there!

  23. rjohns on July 8, 2012 5:48 pm

    As a penisioner, do retired veteran have to pay or join the costa rican health insurance system? we have Tricare.

  24. Tim on July 9, 2012 4:26 pm

    ALL residents of Costa Rica must have CAJA. No exceptions.

  25. rob on July 24, 2012 9:26 am

    Thank you for your very informative website. My wife and I are considering moving to CR. I traveled in CR in ’75 and enjoyed the experience. I am now a 100% disabled vet and receive social security. Will I still be eligible to receive social security, and can those checks be direct deposited to a bank in CR? Thank you.

  26. Tim on August 2, 2012 9:10 am

    Yup and nope. But the solution is easy.

  27. Lori on August 29, 2012 9:16 pm

    Are there any US Military Bases in CR? I have read articles recently implying US Military presence in Central America as a whole, including CR, but I can’t find anything specific regarding bases. I have read a vague article about a USEN Pier Facility in Caldera, but nothing specific.

  28. Mark on August 29, 2012 9:18 pm

    Do any miltary retirees in Costa Rica get their retirement direct deposit thru DFAS, or do you need to go through a bank? For pensionados, doe you need an apostilled memo from DFAS?

  29. Tim on October 8, 2012 7:01 am

    There are none.

    Occasionally, ships patrolling the coast of CR seeking drug traffickers (drug interdiction) are given VERY short term permission to dock. It is a BIG deal, and never taken likely. Other than that, no foreign military is permitted to touch land here.

  30. Jerry Davis on December 23, 2012 6:20 am

    to make sure I understand. I have VA benefits in the states but no service related issues so I can not get medical treatment in Costa Rica under VA correct?

  31. Tim on January 17, 2013 7:37 am

    Please contact the person whose name appears in that article.

  32. Larry Tomaw on June 8, 2013 10:56 am

    I am considering moving to Costa Rica permanently and probably living in the San Jose area. I am looking for as much information as possible on what type and how much health care may be available for me. I currently receive my total health care through the VA in Phoenix AZ.

    Any help you could send along would be greatly appreciated.

    Larry Tomaw

  33. Tim on June 8, 2013 12:10 pm

    Contact the people I mention in the post and they can assist you.

  34. Rusty Norman on December 20, 2013 4:14 pm

    I am an 80% service connected Vietnam Marine and will be moving down there in the March-April time frame. I found your blog very informative. One of my primary missions once I am settled is to rent a 2 bedroom location. Once secured a Marine Lt. Col from the Marine Corps League here in Denton, TX., suggested the following: To send down to me, at the League’s expense, a Marine or FMF Corpsman with some PTSD issues to relax and get away from their daily stressors. In another conversation with people that had done mission work in CR, that it might be useful for these Marines or Corpsman to lend a hand for two or three days. Do you know of any churches or missionary groups that come down there?

  35. Christi on February 16, 2014 3:03 am

    Rusty, I noticed the retired military words pop out of your post and it intrigued me to keep reading! We will be retiring from the USAF in two yrs and are planning on moving to Costa Rica. I think that your idea is a great one and would love to follow your progress since you will be there will before us. We would love to be of service to help with your efforts when we arrive. Thank you for your service and for having such a great idea. Also, I was shocked and amused to see Denton, Tx as your home base. My husband and I were both raised in Ponder, a few miles away!!!

  36. Leo Alonge on March 4, 2014 6:39 pm

    Hello. My wife and I are considering re-locating to your beautiful Country. One of the reasons that I am writing this is for information purposes. I live in South West Florida and I am a life member of the Disabled American Veterans. I am a Certified Service Officer which means that I went to school to be certified by the DAV National Headquarters. In this capacity I assist veterans in filing claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation in reference to their service connected disabilities .I have 3 plus years volunteering in this capacity. When my wife and I do relocate would my experience in this matter be of value to the many veterans in your country . We hope to visit in or about November/December.

  37. Tim on March 5, 2014 7:16 am

    Probably… but I am not a veteran. Contact those listed in the post.

  38. gary on March 10, 2014 12:08 pm

    I am a disabled veteran and living in Jaco for 2 years. I have residency and use the national insurance which is about $50 per month. I am just recently investigating the benefits available through the Va. I guess it depends on where you may be living because from Jaco to San Jose is quite a trek. I need to investigate further myself. If there is an emergency where would I need to go for example. You can e mail me if you want more information.

  39. RICHARD L HAZELMYER on November 24, 2014 11:53 am

    have read you info. and see were it is for vet that can get vet bennys but do you have info for retirees that go under champus for life. I and my brother now live here and we need to find some one that can help us with our medical.


  40. Adam Norman on April 17, 2015 11:27 am

    The American legion link is broken or doesn’t direct me to the correct website. thanks.

  41. Tim on May 6, 2015 11:27 am

    It appears that post 16 was hacked. I fixed it and here is post 10: http://www.amlegioncr10.com/

  42. Ray Mahannah on May 23, 2015 2:08 pm

    Couldn’t quite gather, so please forgive me if this has been answered. I receive my military retirement and VA SCD Compensation payments at 80%. Will I still get the VA payments if I moved down there?

    Thank you!

  43. Tim on May 24, 2015 10:09 am

    Yup… but of course you should contact the VA to make sure you follow all the steps required

  44. David Spell on June 22, 2015 1:52 pm

    I have a friend that wants to relocate to the Guanacaste (Beach) Region of Costa Rica. Are these VA Health Benefits available through the new CIMA Hospital in Liberia?

  45. Tim on June 22, 2015 3:22 pm

    Did he check with the VA? step 1.

  46. David Spell on June 22, 2015 5:14 pm

    No. I am doing the research on this end for him. San Jose will be to far for him to travel from the beaches. I was hoping someone in San Jose (Escazu) would know if CIMA provides services to US Veterans as the Catholic Hospital does. If in Escazu, then maybe at the Liberia location. Thanks.

  47. Frank Abbott on August 6, 2015 6:37 pm

    I’ am 68 years old and a Veteran of the U.S. Army. I have a service connected disability rating of 80% and a stable income for the rest of my life thanks to VA. and my social security combined. my question is. What procedures should I follow to make the move to Costa Roca on mu own.

  48. Rick Deahl on March 28, 2016 1:17 pm

    Disabled Veteran health care has CHANGED! La Catholica Hospital veteran program ONLY covers doctor visits for you disabilities. Prescriptions you need to purchased your meds, then go through the Foreign Medical Program to get reimbursed.

  49. Tim on March 29, 2016 3:26 pm

    Hey Rick. Just sent you and email. Check for it please. Tim

  50. Galen Lutz on September 11, 2016 11:14 am

    Please note that quoting the following paragraph from the site The REAL Costa Rica blog (Hospital Hotel La Católica actually has an American Legion office on the premises. The director Jim Young is the man in charge and he can be reached at +506-2246-3509. He certainly would be a good place to start for gathering more detailed information than I can give in this post. His email is: jey08442[at]aol.com.)

    Jim is no longer living. Trying to reach him by his e-mail not is only futile, but puts his widow through stress.

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