Legislation that would help increase rural access to veterinary care has been reintroduced into both chambers of Congress.
Formerly known as the VMLRP Enhancement Act, the bipartisan Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would pave the way to attract more veterinarians into rural areas by expanding the reach of the highly successful Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP).
The VMLRP, championed by the AVMA, places food animal and public health veterinarians in high-need communities by repaying up to $75,000 in educational debt in exchange for their service. But unlike similar programs for physicians and other human health care providers, VMLRP awards are federally taxed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the VMLRP, is required by law to pay the tax on behalf of the award recipient. The department currently pays out 39% of VMLRP’s annual congressional funding in taxes.
The Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would allow more veterinarians to take part in the VMLRP by ending the federal tax on VMLRP awards. That would make the program’s full funding available to place veterinarians in more rural shortage areas.
The need is clear: The USDA has declared veterinary shortages in a record-high 237 rural areas for 2023, and VMLRP applications routinely exceed available funding. Since 2010, the USDA has made 795 VMLRP awards to veterinarians, while receiving 2,061 applications from veterinarians seeking to participate.
Help support this legislation
Introduction of the Rural Veterinary Workforce Act followed months of collaboration among the AVMA, other organizations, and congressional offices. The sponsors—U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.)—are working with the AVMA and other stakeholders to build additional support for the legislation.
Your voice can make a difference in getting this important legislation approved. The AVMA’s Congressional Advocacy Network (AVMACAN) makes it easy for you to contact your senators and representative to ask them to support this bill. It only takes a minute. Act now.