Bill to increase veterinary services in rural areas is reintroduced

Veterinarian examining a dairy calfAVMA’s work to extend the veterinary loan forgiveness provided through the federal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) took a step forward last week, when legislation to increase funding available for grants through the program was reintroduced in Congress.

The proposed Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA) would eliminate a 39 percent withholding tax that currently applies to grants awarded under this important program – a tax that effectively limits the number of awards that can be made to veterinarians.

The bill was introduced in the Senate (S. 487) by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and in the House (H.R. 1268) by Representatives Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.).

The VMLRP provides loan forgiveness for veterinarians who commit to serving in federally designated veterinary shortage areas. It incentivizes veterinarians to serve in areas where demand for veterinary care for livestock animals exceeds capacity. In exchange for a three-year commitment to serve in shortage areas, participating veterinarians receive up to $75,000 in loan repayments. As a result, this program increases access to veterinary care for farmers and ranchers, and advances animal health and welfare across the nation.

Since the program’s implementation in 2010, 388 awards have gone to veterinarians practicing in 45 states, Puerto Rico and U.S. federal lands. Unfortunately, each award is subject to a 39 percent withholding tax, which reduces the number of awards the United States Department of Agriculture can issue. Without this tax, about 130 additional shortage areas could have benefitted from veterinarians participating in the program to date.

The VMLRP Enhancement Act would eliminate this tax so that more veterinarians can participate in the program and more rural communities can benefit from their services. This legislation would provide a tremendous benefit to both veterinarians and rural communities, and the AVMA strongly supports this bill.

The VMLRP Enhancement Act has failed to pass in previous congressional sessions, despite broad bipartisan support. AVMA will continue working hard on behalf of our member veterinarians to promote the benefits of this legislation and build support for it in Congress.  Your voice can make a difference, too – visit our Congressional Advocacy Network to send your representatives a letter asking them to support the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. It’s easy and takes you only a minute to submit.

Help Us Pass This BillNumerous cosponsors already have signed on to support this legislation. These include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John Thune (R-S.D.); and Representatives Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), David Loebsack (D-Iowa), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.).

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act at avma.org/helpruralamerica.

5 thoughts on “Bill to increase veterinary services in rural areas is reintroduced

  1. As a rural veterinarian I live and work in the very areas that everyone considers under served. The problem is not always just as easy as forgiving student loans, although that helps. There is a big shortage of people that can afford or are willing to pay for services. In most cases those of us in rural practice charge significantly less that our big city counter parts. We work with multiple species. Put in long hours with little or no relief services available to us. We see our own emergencies. We provide a level of care which can only be described as extraordinary given the restrictions that are placed upon us. Yet we deal with the same amount of stress, pressure, paperwork and scrutiny. The truth of the matter is that even new graduates can earn more money in less hours and enjoy a better work-life balance. So while it sounds nice to forgive student debt and the problem will be solved…it’s only the tip of an iceberg.

    • Amendment to my comments

      I meant to say that new graduates will earn more in large city practices with less hours than in most rural practices.

  2. This is a very necessary service. Animals suffer incredible abuse and neglect in rural areas and should have vet care as well as having rescues come in to take these unwanted animals. There is no excuse for cruelty. NONE

  3. Are we not headed for separate programs for food animal/companion animal medicine?
    Wouldn’t it make sense to admit and train candidates who wish to serve the rural communities?
    For so many of us, we train in all fields, while pursuing only some. I would have liked to learn more about my chosen field than to know a little about more fields. And why should farm animal and companion animal candidates have to compete for admission and incur the same expenses?