Stabenow, Crapo introduce bill on veterinarian shortage
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman, D-Mich., and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, last week introduced bipartisan legislation to address the shortfall of veterinarians in rural areas.
The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act would help meet the growing demand for veterinarians nationwide by eliminating taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas, they said in a news release.
In 2003, Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. This program assists selected food animal and public health veterinarians with student loan repayment for a three-year commitment to practice in areas of the country facing a veterinarian shortage. This program helps veterinarians pay down their student loan debt so that they can afford to start a practice where it’s most needed.
The VMLRP is subject to a significant federal withholding tax on the assistance provided to qualifying veterinarians, Stabenow and Crapo said. The Stabenow-Crapo legislation will address this by providing an exemption from the federal income withholding tax for payments received under the VMLRP and similar state programs, helping give more veterinarians the opportunity to practice in small, rural communities where their services are needed, they added.
“Expanding the VMLRP means more veterinarians will receive student loan relief and there will be more access to veterinary care in rural areas across the country – a win-win for the profession,” said Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “The AVMA is grateful our leaders in Congress are supporting legislation that removes the tax on service awards and maximizes the effectiveness of the VMLRP. We will use this momentum to build broad support for the bill and send it to the president’s desk.”
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