Open Letter to The President of the United States
March 31, 2021

Dear Mr. President:

I am a 68 year-old American citizen living in Panama. I have been closely following your career as President, and I am impressed with your progress to date. Of particular importance to me was the $1,400 Stimulus payment. It would allow me to travel to the Social Security office in Costa Rica to re-arrange my banking and to investigate whether I should change my Social Security from “survivor’s benefits” to “retired.” Retired will help me become a legal resident in Panama, where in effect, right now, I’m not represented by any government.

Since you signed the stimulus bill I’ve been to the bank 13 times checking for a deposit. I must be one of the apparent 30 million elders who have been discriminated against by the IRS, Social Security, and in my case, my bank, BBVA Compass in the United States.

As I write this on March 31, 2021 I have no food except for rice and lentil beans, and mangoes I scavenge possibly legally only a mile away. My cash reserves are one American cent, not a joke. But now the gnawing hunger makes it difficult to walk those long distances, and I no longer seek the money in the bank because the IRS is continuing to lie, except perhaps when they say “don’t worry it’ll come sometime this year.”

I have spent many hours on the IRS website, but in the end they require my sending them a signed letter, which would be fine if we had a postal service here in Las Tablas, Panama. I cannot communicate with BBVA Compass or Social Security either because they refuse to believe that I am me. Even though before leaving the States over a year ago I arranged code words and a list of questions for verifying my identity.

There’s a motto here in Panama, “Tranquilo.” Be calm. And I am, even now calm. Pushing back at my calm is a sense of betrayal. This is the first time in my life I’ve gone unwillingly hungry. And I know from personal experience that food and sleep are the only “animal” needs humans require for survival. Being cut off from food by crooked federal agencies is evidence of what’s still really wrong with the United States. Hostility and hatred. Willingness to kill me.

That’s why I need to go to Costa Rica, where there is the U.S. Social Security office nearest me. In emails I’ve traded with them, the people I’ve talked to are Costa Ricans, and prefer conversing in Spanish. They are warm and helpful, complete opposites to the American offices. (And I need the help because while fluent in Spanish, I’ve gone stone deaf — I can’t use phones.)

I have a comment, or perhaps it’s a suggestion or request. In light of the 1.9 trillion stimulus plan, I calculated the impact in comparison to the actual amount of the $1,400 payments. If 30 million Americans get $1,400, that equals a one-time disbursal of 42 billion dollars. If you add 42 billion to 1.9 trillion, you get 1,942,000,000,000, or what you might call “1.9 trillion.” Maybe you could send us that 42 billion and call it consolation money. It’s a suggestion. It would help console.

As you mentioned once on the Medium website, “American seniors, who paid into the Social Security system throughout their lives expecting it would be there for them in their golden years . . . ” Sometimes I forget that it’s just my own money that I’m trying to get back.

Respectfully yours,

Frederick Scott Ermlich
Los Bosques, Las Palmitas, Las Tablas, Los Santos, Panama
(does not include the street address since this is a public letter)




Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Impacts of COVID-19 on the Disability Community

A white wall with a graffiti-style black spray painting of a face mask with word “COVID-19” neatly printed below.

The American People Got Robbed, and We Won’t be Told Who Did It.

Brief Thoughts on Trump’s Post-Election Tantrums

Evidence-Based Solutions?

How to Lose an Election. Repeatedly.

Trump’s Vision of a Militarized America

An Integrated US Climate Policy, Will Wishing Make It So?

Roy Moore and the Hall of Mirrors

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Fred Ermlich

Fred Ermlich

Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages.

More from Medium

Democracy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Giving the mainstream the cold shoulder?

America, America

Photo of the Lincoln Memorial at sunset from a low angle over the water

Justin Worland: SEAL Award Winner 2021