Help rural communities access veterinary care

Cow herd

Enhance the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program

Timely veterinary care is key to preventing and detecting highly contagious animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza. But in dozens of rural communities across the country, there are too few livestock and public health veterinarians to provide needed care. Veterinary shortages in these areas—officially designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—threaten livestock animals and leave them without access to critical preventive care. This could create significant financial losses for farmers and ranchers—and even threaten public health.

Why shortages exist

While many factors may contribute to veterinary shortages, we know that student debt is one of the key drivers. Today, veterinarians who take out student loans graduate with around $180,000 in debt on average. Because rural veterinary careers often pay significantly less than those in urban areas, this debt means many veterinarians can't afford to pursue food animal or public health careers. Veterinarians who would prefer to practice in rural areas often aren't able to do so.

How to solve the problem

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) is one of the best tools available to address rural veterinary shortages. VMLRP provides student loan repayment assistance to food animal and public health veterinarians in exchange for service in rural areas designated by the USDA as having veterinary care shortages. Despite generous congressional funding, the program still does not have enough resources to meet the demand each year. AVMA is asking Congress to pass legislation—the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act—that would end a tax on VMLRP service awards in order to maximize the program's funding and place more veterinarians in high-need communities.

Want more details?

Read AVMA's issue brief. You also can read more about the program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Powered by you: How you can help

There's a real chance that Congress will pass the VMLRP Enhancement Act—but to make that happen, lawmakers need to hear from you. Use these simple online tools to write or call your representatives, and you'll play a vital role in moving this bill forward:

Write Congress

Ask Congress to pass this legislation to help rural communities access veterinary care.

Write a letter

Share your story

Tell us your rural veterinary care story to help us educate lawmakers about this issue.

Share now

Get the AVMA Advocate

Stay up-to-date on legislation and regulations affecting veterinary medicine, and how you can have an impact.

Sign up