Veterans Living Abroad: Dominican Republic

A Vietnam Veteran sits in the lobby of MedVets in Puerto Plata sipping coffee waiting for group therapy to start. Wyatt Gresham was an eighteen year old kid drafted to Vietnam who “never felt at home in America again after how we were treated.” Now Wyatt lives in the Dominican Republic, enjoying ocean views and peace in his retirement. Wyatt alongside twenty thousand other American veterans have found discovered a higher quality life post service in the beautiful Dominican Republic.

The owner of Medvets, Bernard Smith, a retired Army veteran is encouraging veterans to move abroad, escape the chaos of the United States, and live happier and healthier. Medvets operates through the Foreign Medical Program for service-connected veterans, taking care of American vets. Bernard proudly announces, “We’re damn good at what we do, wait-times do not exist here.”

Veteran excursion enjoying all living abroad has to offer

Veterans are finding happiness and a fresh start after relocating here. There’s a higher quality of life at a lower cost, not to mention the beautiful nature and island lifestyle. Veterans I talk to are living their best lives here, and there are Medical Centers specifically for service connected veterans that operate throughout the country.

“We’re not here trying to be the VFW but when you come to the Dominican Republic and come through these doors….you’re at home.”

Bernard Smith, Army veteran and owner of MedVets speaking about the holistic care MedVets provides focusing on the mind, body, and spirit of each veteran who receives services.

What’s Provided For Service-Connected Vets in DR?

  • Primary Care
  • Physical Therapy
  • Aquatic Therapy
  • Massage
  • Mental Health
  • Pharmacy 24/7
  • Traumatic Brain Injury Care
  • Telehealth
  • Acupuncture
  • Group Therapy
  • Chiropractor

Note: In order to be seen in these clinics you must have a service connection from the VA and that includes disabilities rated at 0%. However, these clinics don’t turn veterans away and will work with you to get you your rating and provide a lot of great events and are more geared towards holistic medicine than the VA.

The reasons veterans are choosing to leave the United States aren’t hard to uncover. The high cost of living, political division, mass-shootings, and stressful culture. The reasons veterans are coming to the Dominican Republic are inspiring: the low cost of living and gorgeous beaches are on the list but the best thing about the Dominican Republic is the people. Family, God, and community are very present here.

“The US got way too crazy. After years of military life, I just wanted peace. When I got here, everything clicked at I’m eating better, feeling happier, and it’s nice to just be able to finally relax.”

Air Force Vet Anthony aka DJ Bad Habits, an Air Force veteran who moved to the Dominican Republic during covid.

DR Clinic Links

Puerto Plata: MedVets

Puerto Plata/Santiago/Sosua: Juvante

Santo Domingo: VAFMS

Punta Vana: VCCA

Santiago: iWellness

John’s Note: I do not recommend any one healthcare center more than another. Maybe if one paid me I would recommend them over the others lol. But they all provide essentially similar services, depending on your personal preferences and where you live. You can visit these centers even if you are on vacation or visiting temporarily, which I recommend you do. They will be happy to provide you a tour and most provide services beyond healthcare, including help with things like relocation.

If you’re debating moving abroad, read my article 5 Tips For Veterans Moving Abroad to get started. In my Vets Guide to Moving Abroad I get into the details behind the Foreign Medical Program of the VA if you want to understand more, as well as healthcare abroad.

Questions Answered

How much money do I need to live in the Dominican Republic?

You can live well on a military retirement or if you’re rated 100% from the VA. My rent is $500 a month for a one bedroom, with another $160 for internet and electricity. You can live a high quality life as a veteran with your benefits. Budget is one thing that’s hard to specifically nail down because everyone has a different ideal quality of life. I have a friend who lives in the same town I do, and lives on half as much money. He doesn’t drink and all he really likes to do is work out and scuba dive. To explore more, check out my Veterans Moving Abroad: The Financial Aspects article. You can hit me up if you have specific questions and I’ll get back to you but everyone lives differently.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

In the ex-pat areas like Punta Cana, Cabarete, or Sosua you can get by with little or no Spanish and be fine. Most Dominicans speak a little bit of English, more so in touristy areas. The best way to learn is to dive in and practice, I didn’t speak any Spanish when I first moved. Dominicans are extremely friendly and willing to help or practice their own English. Duolingo is a solid resource you can start learning on your phone and switch over your Netflix to Spanish and you’ll figure it out well enough. Or just date a Dominican and you’ll get there sooner.

What are some of the drawbacks?

  • Driving here is pretty wild.
  • “Island Time” You have to be patient, nothing happens here on time.
  • Electricity can be an issue unless you have a generator.
  • General corruption. If you get pulled over, the cop might drop a hint you can go ahead and give him 1,000 Pesos (less than $20) to go about your day.
  • Hurricanes. (Mainly on the south shore. There’s never been a recorded hurricane in my area)

What are the pros?

  • DR is easier than about anywhere to relocate to. You can pretty much stay as long as you want and then pay an “exit fee.” Read about the DR exit fees and see rates here.
  • Thriving Expat Community: Check out Expats Living in DR on Facebook. There are several groups you can look into, spread around the country. These are also good to apartment shop.
  • Year round beautiful weather and picturesque beaches.
  • Proximity to the U.S. There are consistent flights from Puerto Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo, and Punta Cana to all over the states.
  • Foreigners have full property rights, you can buy apartments, land, and houses.
  • Great culture, restaurants, and nightlife. Follow me on IG and TikTok where I’ll post more living abroad content.

Having lunch at Sosua Beach on the North shore at Fast Freddy’s my favorite beach spot in Sosua.

Is it safe?

In my time living here, I’ve never had a serious issue with safety. After living for years in Afghanistan though just about anywhere feels safe though. I think veterans are well-suited to be expats because we know how to take care of ourselves. You shouldn’t be flashing cash and dressing down is always a good idea. If you’re a vet you know to perform a little recon, avoid going certain places alone, and don’t get too drunk.

Like most countries the violent crime is mainly contained to certain areas. The Politur is the Dominican Republic Tourist Police and have a strong presence in expat areas. They protect the tourists and foreigners because an enormous percentage of the countries economy is tourism. They work hard to keep the “gringos” safe. As a female, similar to anywhere else you have to take some extra safety precautions. The best countries for female veterans in my personal opinion are Costa Rica and Thailand, although I know lots of female vets thriving in DR. Most female veterans I know tend to be in the Punta Cana area.

Check out my latest book 365 Days of Veteran Affirmations, and my other books listed on my website. On my Blog I get into writing about everything from Traveling With Veteran PTSD, to Nature Therapy, to even Dating Abroad. Please check it out and share the articles and resources with other veterans. We have to be there for ourselves and one another.

John’s Note: My mission is to provide positive information for veterans about living abroad, resources and information. There are no affiliate links in any of my living abroad articles or my social media content. I believe sometimes veterans can be healthier and happier outside of the United States. There’s no running away or escaping your problems. But often times, you can heal, grow, and find peace abroad in ways you can’t in the USA. If you’re struggling with your mental health, I’m here for you if you want to talk and will respond on IG or email. You can also contact a veteran organization or chat with the Veterans Crisis Line.

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