Workforce shortages, drug availability among AVMA legislative priorities

Published on July 13, 2011
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The AVMA's legislative agenda for the 112th Congress has expanded to include initiatives ranging from the availability of antimicrobials for use in food animals and veterinary workforce shortages to small-business issues and pay equity for federal veterinarians.

The AVMA Executive Board approved actions on several federal bills recommended by the Legislative Advisory Committee during the June 5-7 board meeting. The AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., will work with Congress to achieve the Association's goals.

Capitol buildingBoard members designated the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (H.R. 965) for active pursuit of defeat. H.R. 965 would phase out the use of certain antibiotics for "nontherapeutic" purposes in food-producing animals.

The LAC noted in its recommendation to the board that H.R. 965 defines "nontherapeutic use" as any use of a drug as a feed or water additive in the absence of any clinical signs of disease in treated animals, whether for growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain, routine disease prevention, or other routine purposes.

AVMA policy states that the availability and effectiveness of antimicrobials, including disease control and prevention uses, are important for maintaining the health and welfare of food-producing animals and ensuring human food safety, the committee stated.

The Veterinary Services Investment Act (S. 1053) was designated for active pursuit of passage. The bill, which was introduced in the previous Congress, would establish a matching grant program with qualified entities to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services in underserved situations.

These grants could fund projects such as establishing or expanding veterinary practices; recruiting veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or students; and establishing or expanding accredited veterinary education programs for necessary services.

Another workforce bill is the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act (H.R. 525), which has been designated for active pursuit of passage. The legislation is designed to increase the number of veterinarians in the public health workforce. In addition to establishing a grants program for eligible institutions preparing veterinarians for careers in public health, the bill would allow veterinarians in the public health workforce to apply for student loan repayment.

Passed in March by the House of Representatives, H.R. 525 was referred to the Senate, where it is under consideration by the Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Executive Board members approved a proposal to actively pursue correcting pay inequities for veterinarians employed by the federal government and part of the uniformed services, including the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

In its recommendation to the board, the LAC explained that the federal government's need for highly trained veterinarians has increased substantially over the past several years. At the same time, government agencies lack sufficient incentives to recruit and retain the best and brightest veterinarians for government service.

The AVMA GRD will work closely with the National Association of Federal Veterinarians to take a holistic look at this issue, the LAC stated. They will compare compensation of veterinarians to that of other health professionals in the federal government and will seek to find a legislative solution to rectify inequities.

The Executive Board approved recommendations that the AVMA support initiatives designed to help small businesses and the middle class. The Small Business Startup Savings Accounts Act (H.R. 1180) would allow businesses with 500 or fewer employees to establish start-up savings accounts to pay certain business expenses. In addition, deposits to the savings account that meet certain requirements would be tax-deductible.

Multiple bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress attempting to fix or repeal the alternative minimum tax, according to the LAC. By passing the Tax Relief Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress approved a "patch" that revised the exemption amounts used in computing the AMT for 2010 and 2011. Without these exemptions, an estimated 28 million taxpayers would have been hit by the AMT—raising their tax bills a mean of more than $6,000 each, the committee stated.

For tax year 2010, the legislation sets the income threshold exempt from the AMT to $47,450 for individuals and to $72,450 for couples filing jointly. In 2011, those exemption amounts will increase to $48,450 and $74,450, respectively.

President Obama proposed in his FY 2012 budget a 3-year patch to the AMT that would be paid for by limiting the amount by which high-income taxpayers could reduce their taxable income for eligible itemized deductions—to the same rate that was in place at the end of the Reagan administration. The proposal was expected to raise $321 billion over the next 10 years.

The LAC noted in its recommendation that the AVMA has in the past supported legislation to reform the AMT to stop the dramatic increase in taxes paid by the middle class, including veterinarians.

Learn more about these bills and the rest of the AVMA's legislative agenda by clicking here on "National issues" in the Advocacy section.