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S.518, The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act

 

Background

 
Today’s veterinary medical students face increasingly large debt burdens. The mean educational debt for today’s veterinary medical graduate is approximately $133,000. Approximately 37 percent of students graduating in 2010 reported debt exceeding $150,000. [1]
 
Meanwhile, many areas across the country lack sufficient veterinarians to treat their farm animals: 1,300 counties have less than one food animal veterinarian per 25,000 farm animals and 500 counties with more than 5,000 farm animals have no food animal veterinarians to treat them.
 
S. 518 will help lower the financial barriers for veterinary students who agree to practice in areas where there is a shortage of veterinarians. It amends the tax code to make the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) awards distributed under section 1415A of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 exempt from income and employment taxes. This would give VMLRP the same status as the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, which provides loan repayment for health professionals that work in areas where health care is scarce. VMLRP fulfills the same function for veterinary medical professionals.
 
This will allow VMLRP to award 25 percent more veterinarians student loan repayment funds than it can under current law, expanding America’s veterinary workforce and allowing more veterinarians to work in underserved areas.

 

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[1] Shepherd, AJ and Majchrzak s. Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2010 graduates of US veterinary medical colleges. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;237:795-798

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