Late yesterday, we were pleased to see the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act (S. 440) get reintroduced in the U.S. Senate. This bill, which the AVMA has lobbied hard for over the last six years, is critical for ensuring that all of America’s rural communities get access to the veterinary care they desperately need.
The bill would exempt awards made through the VMLRP, which places livestock and public health veterinarians in underserved areas of the country in exchange for paying off up to $25,000 annually in their student loan debt, from a steep withholding tax. Currently, the Internal Revenue Service takes 39 cents of every dollar that Congress appropriates to the program, but if that tax were removed, roughly one more veterinarian could serve for every three that currently participate.
Here are the facts:
- Nearly every state across the country has areas in need of routine veterinary medical and emergency services to prevent and monitor for diseases, protect our food supply, and promote the health and welfare of livestock.
- Since the VMLRP’s inception in 2010, 286 veterinarians have been selected to practice in 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands. Had the 39 percent withholding tax from the program been removed, 100 more veterinarians out of the nearly 860 applicants could have filled more of the vacancies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s designated shortage areas without increasing the program’s annual congressional appropriations.
- VMLRP veterinarians can earn up to $75,000 in qualified educational student loans in exchange for their public service. For reference, the average graduating debt for veterinarians in 2014 was $134,470.
- VMLRP awardees will play an increasingly important role in the future in protecting food safety by overseeing the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals, per the Food and Drug Administration’s new Guidance for Industry Nos. 209 and 213.
- More than 150 veterinary, commodity and agriculture-related organizations have called on Congress to pass this bill.
AVMA President Dr. Ted Cohn thanked Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for their continued support for this important initiative, calling it a “win for both public and animal health.” The bill has not yet been introduced in the U.S. House.
Learn more about the bill, read stories from current veterinarians participating in the program, and view infographics and other resources on AVMA’s website.