AVMA’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.
Numerous 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.