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​​​​​​​​​​​Sharon Granskog
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 AVMA fly-in brings nearly 100 veterinary advocates to Capitol Hill

(Washington, D.C.​​)–The AVMA's 9th annual Legislative Fly-in, which took place from April 23 to April 25, brought 72 veterinary students and 20 veterinarians to Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession. Over the course of this three-day event, attendees heard from veterinary policy experts and met with members of Congress and their staffs.

2017 Legislative Fly-in attendees 

"Every day, members of Congress make decisions that impact the veterinary profession," said AVMA President Dr. Tom Meyer. "As veterinarians, we need to be involved in those decisions to make sure we're protecting our profession. I was very impressed with the students and veterinarians who came to the fly-in, because their advocacy is really paving the way for the future of veterinary medicine."

Fly-in attendees focused on two key legislative issues facing the veterinary community: the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the passage of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA). Both pieces of legislation would help address veterinary student debt, which averaged more than $140,000 for 2015 graduates of veterinary colleges.

In regards to the Higher Education Act, attendees urged Congress to enhance portions of the bill that would reduce student loan burdens for veterinary students – such as lowering interest rates for federal loans and permitting refinancing. Attendees also asked Congress to pass the VMLRPEA, which would eliminate a withholding tax requirement to effectively increase awards available through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. This program provides up to $75,000 in loan forgiveness to veterinarians who commit to serving at least three years in regions suffering from veterinary shortages.

Many attendees shared their personal student loan experiences to help their representatives in Congress understand why addressing veterinary student debt is so important.

Student attendees represented nearly 30 veterinary colleges across the country. Banfield Pet Hospital sponsored the fly-in; see the association’s website for more information about the annual fly-in.​

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