“Old MacDonald had a farm, but that farm didn’t have a veterinarian. As a result, his animals became sick, hurting our agricultural economy.”
If you went to National Journal’s or Roll Call’s websites this morning, you would have noticed that a familiar nursery rhyme has changed its tune. AVMA’s latest advertising campaign shows how a bill before Congress can help underserved rural communities get the veterinary care they need, while reducing participating veterinarians’ student loan debt.
All across the United States, there are rural areas suffering from a lack of essential veterinary services. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) helps these communities by placing livestock and public health veterinarians in their areas. In exchange, the participating veterinarian receives up to $25,000 annually to help pay off their student loans. To date, 205 veterinarians have answered the call in 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands, helping farmers and ranchers care for their livestock, while also protecting food safety and guarding our country against harmful zoonotic diseases.
Unfortunately, the VMLRP is subject to a 39 percent withholding tax, meaning the Internal Revenue Service takes back 39 cents of every dollar before any veterinarian receives an award. If this wasn’t the case, more money would stay in the program, thus allowing more veterinarians to participate.
This is why the AVMA, through its newest advertising campaign, is calling on Congress to include the VMLRP Enhancement Act (S. 553/H.R. 1125) in any tax legislation it tackles this year. It’s an easy fix! By simply removing the withholding tax from the VMLRP, the program will be able to use its full federal appropriations to place more veterinarians in underserved communities.
Congress already removed a similar tax on VMLRP’s counterpart program for human medicine. It is time for our nation’s leaders to show the same commitment to animal health and welfare.
The AVMA’s digital advertising campaign will run on National Journal’s and Roll Call’s websites Sept. 15-21. People who access the publications through their mobile devices will see smaller versions of the ads as well. All advertisements link to a new page on AVMA’s website where interested people can learn more about the bill and write their member of Congress in support of this bill.
AVMA’s Congressional Advocacy Network (AVMA-CAN) will be complementing the weeklong campaign on its Facebook and Twitter pages. AVMA members are urged to share the AVMA-CAN’s posts in their own social networks.
With only a few legislative weeks left this Congress, time is running out for our nation’s leaders to take action. Contact your representatives today!
As the ads conclude:
“Let’s get more veterinarians into rural communities that desperately need their help. That way, Old MacDonald can get back to work and our food supply will be protected.”