American Veterinary Medical Association CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven last week issued a call to Washington lawmakers in an op-ed in The Hill's Congress Blog asking for support of a bill that provides a tax exemption for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.
The VMLRP places livestock and public health veterinarians in underserved areas of the country in exchange for paying off up to $25,000 annually in that veterinarian’s student loans.
Administered by the USDA, DeHaven says VMLRP has successfully placed 205 veterinarians in 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands since 2010 to help farmers and ranchers ensure animal health.
Under the tax exemption bill for which DeHaven is advocating, the 39% withholding tax on the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program would be removed, allowing more veterinarians to practice in rural communities, he said.
A similar withholding tax has been removed for the counterpart program for human medicine—the National Health Services Corps’ loan repayment program, DeHaven said.
"For the last several years, the American Veterinary Medical Association, along with more than 150 animal, agricultural and veterinary medicine organizations, has urged Congress to support this bill. To date, only 58 members of Congress have stepped forward in support of this important legislation," he wrote.
"With nearly every state calling on the USDA for veterinary care, it is unbelievable that more of our elected officials have not come forward to represent the rural communities within their districts that suffer from a dearth in veterinary services."
According to DeHaven, lawmakers have a "real opportunity" to include the legislation, S. 553/H.R. 1125, in any tax bill this year.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., first introduced the Senate version of the bill with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, on March 13, 2013, and the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. In the House, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introduced the bill on March 13, 2013, and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.