State animal health officials have until November 8, 2021, to submit nominations for locations to be designated as U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary shortage areas in 2022.
Designated shortage areas become eligible for assistance through two USDA programs that help recruit veterinarians to work in them: the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP).
Veterinarians and other veterinary professionals can work with their state veterinary associations and local animal health officials on these nominations. Information about the nomination process and how to apply can be found on USDA’s website.
The VMLRP and VSGP programs help alleviate veterinary access gaps in rural, agricultural communities and public health veterinary practice. Before each fiscal year, USDA gathers veterinary shortage data from state animal health officials and uses the information to designate shortage areas to be mitigated through VMLRP and VSGP awards.
The list of shortage areas for 2022 is expected to be announced in February 2022, when the application window for these awards will open. In 2021, the USDA designated 221 veterinary shortage areas in 48 states.
The VMLRP awards for 2021 are expected to be announced later this year. In 2021, there were 78 VMLRP offers to veterinarians in 36 states. Under the VSGP program, NIFA has issued $3 million in grants to support 17 projects since September. These included 10 awards to support rural practice enhancement and seven to support education, extension, and training work in shortage areas.
As the leading champion of the VMLRP and VSGP programs, the AVMA is working with Congress to pass the VMLRP Enhancement Act, a bill that would extend the program’s ability to reach more communities in need of veterinary services. In the House of Representatives, AVMA’s sustained advocacy has so far expanded the number of cosponsors for the VMLRP Enhancement Act to 37. In the previous Congress, there were 29 cosponsors.
Individual voices from the veterinary community make a difference in helping lawmakers understand the importance of programs like VMLRP and the need to broaden its impact. The AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network makes it easy for you to contact your representatives in Congress to urge them to support this legislation.