Geni Wren The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) applauded U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) for introducing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act of 2013 (S. 553/H.R. 1125).
This bipartisan legislation addresses the critical shortage of veterinarians serving in rural areas of the country by making VMLRP tax-exempt, thereby increasing the number of veterinarians who can participate in the program without requiring additional appropriations from Congress.
“Passage of the Johnson-Crapo-Schrader legislation is vital to enhanced animal care, ensuring food safety and protecting public health in rural areas,” said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “By eliminating the tax burden on the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, Congress will be putting this important program on the same level-playing field as its equally important counterpart program for human medicine. We are pleased to see this legislation introduced again and encourage the 113th Congress to expeditiously pass it.”
Unlike its counterpart program for human medicine — the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program—the VMLRP currently requires that 39% of its funding be returned to the Internal Revenue Service as a federal tax, barring the full funding from being awarded each year. If the Johnson-Crapo-Schrader legislation, which received wide support in the 111th and 112th Congresses, passes, then one additional veterinarian could receive an award for every three veterinarians that currently have awards.
“The shortage of veterinarians in our rural communities has a huge impact on our farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on access to animal care,” Johnson said. “The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is a critical tool to expanding access to veterinary care. Our legislation has the potential to increase the number of veterinarians placed in underserved and shortage areas by more than 30%.”
“Nationwide, there are 500 counties with at least 5,000 farm animals, but with no local veterinarians in the area to treat the animals,” Crapo said. “This shortage could have dire consequences on human and animal health, public safety, animal welfare, disease surveillance and economic development. The demand for veterinarians across the United States could increase 14% by 2016.”