From Service to Adventure: How Veterans Can Thrive Abroad with Their Benefits
Guest post by @thebiggrepper on Twitter. Former USAF Air Evac Medic assisting with Veteran Affairs disability claims and educating those who served on the benefits they are entitled to.
I’m Dylan aka thebiggrepper on Twitter. Former USAF Air Evac medic. I assist U.S. military veterans by mainly assisting with Veteran Affairs disability claims and educating those who served on the benefits they are entitled to. Also, thank you to Mr. BowtiedPassport for allowing this guest post.
As we navigate life's winding journey, there comes a point when we yearn for adventure and the chance to discover new horizons. This is especially true for veterans and often why many enlist( or you were just low-income like myself). We have selflessly served this nation and done our duties in contributing to one of the largest businesses of the United States - The Military-Industrial Complex. After military service, there really isn’t anything that can compare to this type of lifestyle…so you must make your own.
This desire for exploration should extend beyond the borders of the United States and being a veteran happens to be the ultimate cheat code. Many dream of embracing the richness of diverse cultures, savoring the flavors of international cuisine/women, and soaking in the sights and sounds of far-off lands but very few have any of the resources and funds to do so.
Earning a U.S. dollar income while living abroad in places with a lower cost of living is ideally what you want in these times. The strength and stability of the U.S. dollar make it a highly desirable currency to earn, especially in countries where local currencies might be subject to volatility. You could take a crisp $100 bill and dine on $5 ribeyes in Argentina or even head to Bangkok to eat delicious street food everyday for the month. The point is that being a U.S citizen is like winning the lotto… and serving in the military is your second lottery win.
Why do I say that when patriotism and wokeness have shifted the perspective of being affiliated with the military? Outside of the obvious travel experiences, camaraderie, and being an avenue for boys to become men, the military allows any individual to come from nothing and step into the high middle class but in this case - having the ability to live freely abroad.
Let’s put this into perspective with a hypothetical chain of events from a young man who joins the military at 18 and does four years of active military service. His job does not translate too well to the civilian side but he learns some core soft skills and follows my guide on ensuring he gets VA claim done efficiently before his end of service. The military put some permanent wear & tear on his body and deserves to be compensated.
FUNDING YOUR ESSENTIALS ABROAD
At 22 years old, this now “disabled” veteran(let's call him Alonzo) , is now receiving his VA disability pay at the 100% rate. That is a minimum $3,737.85 a month or $44,854.20 annually tax-free. To generate this passively, you would need about three million dollars in an ETF that has a 1.2% dividend payout. Alonzo could retire now. The VA has an infinite budget so don’t worry about taking from other veterans. Here are the current VA disability claim payout rates.
With Alonzo’s new income, he can pretty much live decently in any US cities or live very well abroad. Some hotspots are Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Dominican Republic, Mexico City, Portugal. The living expenses in these places are max $2500 and will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Think multiple bedroom luxury apartments with full amenities in the heart of the city. Alonzo has his eyes on a new place in Bangkok, Thailand for $900 a month.
Most of you are likely familiar with the process of booking plane tickets and traveling, but there are a few key factors to keep in mind beforehand. It's advisable to take advantage of your active duty or veteran status when choosing a credit card. Personally, I highly recommend the AMEX Platinum card and don't mind paying the annual fee for it. With this card, it's particularly advantageous when booking tickets for longer flights, as the active duty fee is waived. I've personally used this card for flights to destinations like South East Asia and throughout Latin America, and their 24/7 assistance line has been incredibly helpful for making ticket changes, especially when dealing with multiple time zones. In addition to their solid customer service, lounge access after multiple hour flights is clutch before you head into a new city.
For veterans with a 100% Permanent and Total (P&T) disability rating, a unique travel opportunity known as Space-A or Space-Available has been unlocked. These are seats reserved for specific categories, such as retired personnel, disabled veterans, medical attendants, and other miscellaneous individuals on military flights. The flight routes remain relatively consistent but are subject to mission requirements. While embarking on Space-A travel may require some patience, it can be an excellent option if you have ample time to spare and are willing to invest in mastering the process. If you're interested in getting started, this resource is an excellent place to begin your journey.
Alonzo wanted to test the waters prior to moving somewhere permanently so he decided to use the Armed Forces Vacation club to try out some places he might like. He even bought a stay for his parents.
EDUCATION WHILE ABROAD
The benefits do not stop there. Alonzo wants to pursue a higher education (which you all should. When you become a disabled veteran, you become eligible for VR&E. To not get into the weeds of this program, I just say it doubles your education benefits. He uses the VA site to help him find approved schools in Thailand. Bangkok University it is and the BAH for overseas schools can be up to about $2000 per month.
Alonzo is now collecting almost $6000 a month tax-free in Thailand to go to school without exhausting his 36 months of GI Bill. The top 10% families earn about $3,000 a month in Thailand…. As you can see, it pays well to serve in the United States. Foreign school attendance will also make the visa process, if any, much easier.
MEDICAL WHILE ABROAD
Using VA healthcare in the USA can sometimes be challenging due to various factors, including long wait times, limited access to specialized care in certain regions, and administrative hurdles. However, veterans can access valuable benefits through the Foreign Medical Program (FMP) when living abroad or traveling internationally. The FMP offers veterans the peace of mind that they can receive necessary medical care even outside the United States, ensuring that their health needs are met, no matter where they are in the world. This program can be especially beneficial for veterans who frequently travel or reside in foreign countries, as it provides them with financial assistance for essential medical services while simplifying the reimbursement process.
The medical system outside the US and in popular travel destinations tend to be a bit more efficient than expected. I have not used FMP since it is fairly cheap to get the health items I need to get done without insurance. Buying prescriptions, meds, dental cleanings, and lab work may run me $120 max outside the US. Here are some people who explain the FMP process in various locations: DR, Thailand, Colombia.
INCOME WHILE ABROAD
This could very well be one of the most pivotal challenges one might face. Alonzo's VA income is substantial enough to place it in the upper echelons of income in most countries, but there are many like me who are obligated to continue working even if we won the lottery for a third time. The last scenario anyone would desire is that of a veteran struggling to make ends meet in what should be their paradise. In most cases, veterans who have found success abroad typically fall into a few specific fields, such as sales, IT, contracting(DoD), or running a legitimate business. Beyond these options, it's rare to come across individuals who can maintain a sustainable life abroad without making significant sacrifices or compromises. There are various avenues one can explore to enter these fields, and BowtiedPassport offers valuable resources to help leverage military soft skills for a career in Tech Sales, provided you have the determination. Personally, I found my calling in IT, which not only allows me the freedom to travel within the United States but also enables me to do so without constraints. My next obstacle is moving abroad with a more lenient role. I hope we cross paths in the future
BUT WHY ABROAD?
Cultural immersion is often needed for veterans. The military transition can be extremely difficult for some and coming back to America you are targeted constantly by the media with what they want you to get emotional over this month. Going abroad, even if it’s brief, is a great way to decompress. A language barrier is awesome for blocking out the noise and focusing on yourself.
Alonzo did his military service and gave his all to Uncle Sam even if his health was not prioritized. A few years abroad is his plan and he’s knocking out some important goals.
He is leaving the military with zero debt and not having to pay $3000 in rent in the US
He is no longer breaking his body down and his school schedule allows him to rehab his body and focus on maintenance
Education overseas is funded fully and a cultural immersion is helping him learn a new language
This is an experience that many will never have the chance to do. He will look back and be happy he did it
Just do it
**Thank you for writing this great post Dylan. I higher recommend everyone reading to check out the two guides he has written here
If you would like to write a guide post here - feel free to send me or email or leave a comments.
Subscribe for more great information
BowTied Passport's - Guide to Travel & Living Abroad is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
↓Don’t forget to hit the like/heart button. It helps with substack rankings↓