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June 15, 2021

AVMA lobbies Congress, virtually

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The AVMA hosted its annual legislative fly-in April 21, bringing veterinary students and veterinarians together virtually with their members of Congress to advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession.

A record 211 AVMA and Student AVMA members participated in the fly-in, the first time the AVMA hosted the event online.

“The AVMA legislative fly-in empowers our members with direct advocacy experience,” AVMA President Douglas Kratt said in an AVMA press release. “It provides veterinary students and veterinarians across the country an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their members of Congress and bring them up to speed on issues that are important to the profession.”

U.S. Capitol building

Ahead of virtual meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, participants were briefed by the AVMA advocacy team about why Congress should pass the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (HR 2447) and oppose creation of a new federal mandate concerning veterinarians and prescriptions.

To help relieve their educational debt burden and recruit veterinarians to high-need areas, the VMLRP provides up to $75,000 toward educational debt in exchange for three years of service in any of the U.S. Department of Agriculture–designated veterinary shortage areas. At the same time, the VMLRP helps states address their unique needs, be it food animal medicine, public health, or food safety.

However, a 37% withholding tax on VMLRP awards limits the program’s ability to close veterinary access gaps in underserved communities. Passage of the VMLRP Enhancement Act would eliminate the tax, allowing for additional awards.

Fly-in participants also encouraged their representatives and staffs to oppose any new federal mandate giving the Federal Trade Commission authority over prescription writing by veterinarians. In previous Congresses, that attempt came as the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, which would require a veterinarian to automatically provide a copy of a prescription for a companion animal client that can be filled at a pharmacy.

Although the act has not been introduced in the current Congress so far, the AVMA opposes such legislation for several reasons, including that most states already require veterinarians to provide clients with a prescription when requested to do so.

Fly-in attendees participated in 90 meetings with Senate offices and 128 with House offices.

“Coming out of those meetings, we’ll work to help AVMA members continue to develop relationships with members and staffs in those offices,” said Dr. Kent McClure, chief government relations officer for the AVMA. “Legislative advocacy is key to protecting and promoting the profession.”

He and Dr. Kratt spoke during the webinar “Come One, Come All: Member Power in AVMA Advocacy” on April 27 about the Association’s advocacy efforts. Dr. McClure added that the AVMA is nonpartisan and focuses solely on veterinary-related issues, which serves as a core strength.

“What we want isn’t going to happen without bipartisan support. We spend a tremendous amount of time educating members of Congress about issues important to veterinary medicine. Depending on who is in power, particular issues may get more traction than others, but we have an ability to work with those offices despite party affiliation,” Dr. McClure said.