Grants help veterinarians provide needed services in designated shortage areas

DrDeirdreJohnsonVMLRPFor the seventh consecutive year, rural communities and the veterinarians that serve them will benefit from the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which provides student loan relief to veterinarians in areas with veterinary shortages.

The AVMA has been a staunch supporter to ensure federal funding of this program, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA announced this month that it would issue an impressive $4.3 million in loan relief to 48 veterinarians through the program this year.

The VMLRP helps rural areas suffering from a maldistribution of veterinarians, which often means care for livestock is scarce, by providing student loan relief to veterinarians who commit to serve for at least three years in a designated veterinary shortage area. Veterinary graduates who want to practice in rural shortage areas face special challenges such as building a client base, establishing a support network and securing start-up financing. Combined with student loans – which topped $140,000 on average for students graduating from veterinary colleges in 2015 – these initial costs can be prohibitive to rural practice. That’s why the AVMA teamed up with other veterinary advocates in 2003 and worked with Congress to pass the VMLRP.

Since the program’s implementation, it has helped more than 350 veterinarians provide valuable service in shortage areas across 46 states. The financial assistance provided under the program helps these veterinarians focus on what they trained to do: protect animal health, animal welfare and public health in communities where they are needed.

The AVMA continues working to strengthen this important program. Each award is subject to a 39 percent withholding tax, which negatively impacts the number of awards that can be made to the more than 1,100 veterinarians who have applied to the program. The AVMA is leading an advocacy effort to abolish withholding taxes on VMLRP awards. This effort will continue until we are successful.

To see where VMLRP recipients have served, check out this map on NIFA’s website.

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