Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow are leading a bipartisan effort to end the shortfall of veterinarians in rural areas by reintroducing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA). This bipartisan bill would help meet the growing demand for veterinarians nationwide by eliminating taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas.
Veterinarians are a critical part of ensuring our access to a safe and high-quality food supply. Unfortunately, nearly every state has a rural community that is suffering from a shortage in essential veterinary services. To help address this concern, in 2003, Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). 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 with daunting student loan debt with making a living in a community where starting a practice may be otherwise financially impossible.
The problem is the VMLRP is subject to a significant federal withholding tax on the assistance provided to qualifying veterinarians. This affects the amount of limited resources that can go toward this worthy effort and the reach of its benefits. The Crapo-Stabenow legislation will address this by providing an exemption from the federal income withholding tax for payments received under the VMLRP and similar state programs. Thus, more veterinarians would have the opportunity to practice in small, rural communities where their services are so desperately needed and more communities will have much-needed veterinarian services.
“Access to quality animal care is critical to Idaho’s agricultural economy,” said Senator Crapo. “But too often, ranchers and farmers cannot access the care they need because of a lack of veterinarians. This legislation will increase the number of veterinary doctors serving in the areas where they are needed most, helping to strengthen rural economies and protect the safety of our food supply.”
“Veterinarians are vital to animal welfare and our nation’s agricultural economy,” said Senator Stabenow. “Unfortunately, many small towns and rural communities in Michigan and across the country don’t have access to the veterinary services they need most. This bill creates important incentives for veterinarians to practice in underserved areas, where quality veterinary care is needed to ensure healthy livestock and a safe food supply.”
Support for the bill includes Senators Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Bennet (D-Colorado), Blunt (R-Missouri), Duckworth (D-Illinois), Gardner (R-Colorado), Gillibrand (D-New York), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Isakson (R-Georgia), King (I-Maine), Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Leahy (D-Vermont), Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Risch (R-Idaho).
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