A bill championed by the AVMA has been reintroduced in the Senate that would enable more veterinarians to receive student loan relief, and help increase access to rural veterinary care across the country. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act would remove the federal withholding tax on service awards, making more funds available to recruit veterinarians to states in need of essential services to maintain public and animal health.
Veterinarians participating in the VMLRP receive up to $25,000 a year for student loan repayment in exchange for three years of service in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-designated veterinarian shortage area. In 2021, the USDA designated 221 shortage areas in 48 different states.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) reintroduced the VMLRP Enhancement Act in the Senate. Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) reintroduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. Veterinarian Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Co-chairs of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus, are original cosponsors of the bill. More than 100 agriculture-related organizations have come out in support of it.
Reducing veterinary debt: A priority for the profession
In 2020, the average educational debt for veterinary graduates who borrowed was over $188,000. Many new graduates are unable to practice in underserved rural communities that need their services the most, since salaries in those areas are often lower than those in urban or suburban areas. If the VMLRP Enhancement Act is signed into law, one additional veterinarian could participate in the program for every three veterinarians currently accepted. Since 2010, 1,632 veterinarians have applied to the VMLRP, yet only 552 have received service awards.
During AVMA’s first-ever virtual legislative fly-in, veterinarians and veterinary students met with 218 different congressional offices to advocate on behalf of the profession. AVMA members identified the VMLRP Enhancement Act as a top legislative priority for the profession during the event.
AVMA members can help ensure the passage of this important bill by asking your members of Congress to support it.