Support legislation that helps get veterinary care to rural America


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America’s farmers and ranchers depend on veterinarians to keep their livestock animals healthy and productive. Without access to adequate veterinary care, food animals are at risk for dangerous disease outbreaks that can threaten rural economies and public health.  

Unfortunately, veterinary shortages persist in more than 150 rural communities encompassing approximately​ 1,100 rural counties across the country. These regions need veterinarians specializing in livestock animals and veterinarians specializing in public practice – including food safety, public health, epidemiology, pathology, molecular diagnostics, virology, toxicology, immunology, bacteriology, serology, foreign animal disease preparedness and livestock infectious diseases. 

Congress can provide relief by passing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (S. 487/H.R. 1268), which would help place veterinarians in underserved areas by increasing student loan repayment opportunities. 

Currently, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) provides selected food animal and public health veterinarians up to $75,000 in loan repayment in exchange for serving at least three years in a federally-designated shortage area. This repayment is key to incentivizing veterinarians to serve in shortage areas, as student loans – which averaged $143,758 for 2016 graduates of veterinary colleges – can make practice in rural areas cost-prohibitive. Since the program’s inception, 388 awards have been made to veterinarians who have answered the call for public service across 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands. 

Read stories from 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.

Despite the success of the VMLRP, about 75 percent of shortage areas remain unfilled because of limited funding for the program. This challenge results in part from the fact that each VMLRP award is subject to a 39 percent withholding tax, which quickly eats up program funding. This tax is unfair – especially since awards for the VMLRP’s counterpart program for human health medicine, the National Health Service Corps’ Loan Repayment Program, are exempt from the withholding tax. If this tax had been removed since the program’s inception, an additional 211 shortage areas could have been filled. 

The VMLRP Enhancement Act will address this issue by removing the 39 percent withholding tax on VMLRP awards so more veterinarians can serve in shortage areas. This legislation is a common-sense solution to veterinary shortages across the country. 

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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