All across the United States, there are rural communities that lack access to veterinary care. Farmers and ranchers depend on veterinarians for routine medical and emergency services that help prevent and monitor for diseases, protect our food supply, and promote the health and welfare of livestock. There is a bill in Congress that could help.
In 2003, recognizing the important animal and public health need for veterinarians, Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). The program provides selected food animal and public health veterinarians up to $75,000 in loan repayment for a three-year commitment to practice in an area of the country where they are needed the most. This financial incentive helps veterinarians—who face an average of $135,000 in student loan debt—to make a living in a community where opening their own veterinary clinic could be cost prohibitive. Since the program’s inception, 285 veterinarians have answered the call for public service in 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands.
Read stories from current participants in the program, Dr. Kayla Henderson, a Colorado veterinarian who provides a wide range of services to farms and ranches, and Dr. Deirdre Johnson, a midwest poultry veterinarian.
Unfortunately, when Congress created the VMLRP it tacked on a 39 percent withholding tax per award, meaning money that could go toward placing more veterinarians in high-priority areas instead goes to Uncle Sam. This is unfair—especially since awards for its counterpart program for human health medicine, the National Health Service Corps’ Loan Repayment Program, are exempt from this withholding tax, which allows it to place more doctors and nurses around the country where people need them most.
There is an answer: the VMLRP Enhancement Act. This vital legislation will remove the withholding tax on the program awards, giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture the ability to give more veterinarians the opportunity to practice in these designated shortage areas without Congress having to increase the program’s annual federal appropriation.
You can help
Tell Congress that U.S. ranchers and farmers depend on veterinarians for the care of their livestock. Pass the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act so we can get more veterinarians in rural communities across the country.
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