Congress approves development of national One Health coordination plan, other veterinary funding priorities
Fiscal year 2023 budget provides funding for programs essential to the profession
R. Scott Nolen
January 11, 2023
An AVMA-backed provision that Congress passed and was enacted into law on Dec. 29, 2022, requires the development of a national One Health Framework. The framework’s aim is to coordinate federal activities in combating zoonotic disease outbreaks and to advance public health preparedness.
The One Health language passed (PDF) is taken from another bill, the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act (HR 2061/S 681), and directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with other relevant federal departments and agencies to develop a national One Health Framework to collaborate on preventing, detecting, controlling, and responding to zoonotic diseases.
“The One Health legislation passed by Congress will help strengthen the nation’s preparedness for diseases that can spread between animals and humans,” AVMA President Lori Teller said. “We have all witnessed the significant threat that zoonotic diseases pose to our society. With animals, humans, and the environment being more interconnected than ever, the AVMA applauds Congress for taking this crucial step forward in fully implementing a One Health Framework so we can better protect public health.”
One Health in action
The One Health concept is a recognition that human, animal, and environmental health do not exist independently of each other but rather are deeply connected. Each part of that triad is best understood with the whole in mind, which requires multidisciplinary collaboration.
“Passage of this long-overdue One Health Framework provision by the Congress is heartening, and I am delighted,” said Dr. Bruce Kaplan, co-founder of the One Health Initiative. “However, my fervent hope is, as Winston Churchill said, ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’”
Dr. Kaplan continued: “As my One Health Initiative team colleagues and I have said since the initiative’s founding, One Health implementation will help protect and/or save untold millions of lives in our generation and for those to come. This includes more significantly expeditious and efficacious worldwide advancements in global public health and clinical biomedical research for human, animal, and environmental well-being.”
Relevant federal agencies must submit a proposed framework to Congress within a year. The AVMA said it will work with lawmakers and federal agencies on the implementation of the legislation.
FY 2023 appropriations
The AVMA was actively engaged with lawmakers and their staffs to ensure proper funding was provided for programs that are essential to veterinary medicine and animal health.
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program: The VMLRP has received an increase of $500,000 in funding from the last fiscal year, for a total of $10 million. The program plays a role in closing workforce gaps in food animal medicine and veterinary public health by offering three years of repayment of educational loans in exchange for service in veterinarian shortage areas designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Veterinary Services Grant Program: The program was allocated an additional $500,000 in funding for a total of $4 million. The VSGP is a federal program that provides Education, Extension, and Training grants to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services and Rural Practice Enhancement grants to establish or expand veterinary practices in rural areas.
Food Animal Residue Avoidance Database Program: FARAD was allocated $2.5 million to protect the U.S. food supply against drug residues in animal-derived foods so that they are safe for human consumption.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: The FSIS was allocated $2.8 million to address the consistently high numbers of vacancies for public health veterinarians at the agency.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: The agency was allocated $1 million in additional funding for a total of $4 million to combat abuses associated with horse soring, the practice of inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of gaited horses.
Retirement plans: The AVMA-supported Securing a Strong Retirement Act, also known as the Secure Act 2.0, was enacted in December 2022. The bipartisan bill is a sequel to legislation enacted in December 2019 that helped set the stage for the AVMA Trust to launch the AVMA Trust Retirement Plan for veterinary business owners, including self-employed veterinarians. The AVMA was heavily involved in the support for both of these bills in the last two Congresses.
The Secure Act 2.0 will make it easier for small businesses to band together and improve retirement offerings. Provisions include the following:
Allowing individuals to save for retirement longer by increasing the required minimum distribution age to 73 in 2023 and then to age 75 in 2033.
Increasing the yearly amount of allowed catch-up contributions by an index rather than a fixed dollar amount.
Increasing the limit on catch-up contributions for ages 62, 63, and 64.
Allowing employers to match a portion of employees’ student loan repayments and contribute that amount to their retirement plan even if the employees are not contributing themselves.
Expanding automatic enrollment in retirement plans.