Washington, D.C., March 18, 2013 – U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), both veterinarians, have joined forces to form the first-ever, bipartisan Veterinary Medicine Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the March 6 letter the congressmen sent to fellow representatives inviting them to join the caucus, they underscored the critical role the profession of veterinary medicine plays in a healthy society and stated that the caucus aims to “increase awareness of the importance of veterinary medicine on research, public health, animal health and welfare, food safety and our overall economy.”
Caucuses are topically focused organizational structures within Congress that are designed to convey educational content to other legislators and help generate awareness and support for specific initiatives. Caucuses can draft and advance legislation, provide Congressional testimony, and conduct briefings, events and hearings.
“I look forward to championing common sense legislation that benefits both the veterinary profession and our nation, whether that’s related to animal welfare, research, food safety, or disease detection and prevention,” Yoho said. “For the most part, I think that people have no idea what a major role veterinarians play in advancing the health of both animals and people. This caucus will be a great way to spread the word among legislators and other decision makers who have the power and influence to make a difference.”
Congressman Schrader was equally enthusiastic in expressing support for the ground-breaking initiative. “It is great to have a fellow veterinarian and partner on the other side of the aisle in Rep. Yoho, who understands and shares the priorities of the veterinary community. Together, I hope we can use our unique experience and perspective in the field of veterinary medicine to educate and engage our fellow members of congress on its impacts on public health, animal health and welfare and food safety.”
The formation of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus comes at an extremely important time, as several vitally important bills relating to veterinary medicine are currently before Congress, according to Kevin Cain, the AAVMC’s director of governmental relations.
On March 12, Schrader introduced H.R. 1125, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA), in the House of Representatives. The legislation provides a federal income tax exemption for financial awards received under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment
Program (VMLRP). Such awards are currently taxed at 39 percent.
Another pending bill with broad implications for the profession of veterinary medicine is the Farm Bill, which traditionally contains important provisions that affect the quality and availability of veterinary medical services to support both the production and the safety of food in the United States.
Specific appropriations requests before the 113th Congress include continued funding for the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and animal health and disease research, including funding through the National Institutes of Health.
“This is an historic and exciting development for a profession that touches the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans every day,” said Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). “We intend to work closely with the caucus, in partnership with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), to advance the interests of veterinary medicine and raise awareness of the issues that affect us all.”
The AAVMC, which represents academic veterinary medicine, and the AVMA, which represents the profession as a whole, traditionally work closely together to support federal legislation designed to strengthen the profession and foster programs that protect public health, promote the health and safety of the food supply and provide quality clinical care for family pets.
“Not only were we pleased with two veterinarians as part of the 113th Congress, but we are excited to see how they are using their expertise in the newly established Veterinary Medicine Caucus to advance legislation that is important to the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of AVMA’s governmental relations division. “Given the current budgetary issues on Capitol Hill, it is crucial that legislators realize the important role that veterinarians play in all facets of American lives, from protecting public and animal health to safeguarding our food supply to disease surveillance and research to economic development. With some of these critical programs facing funding cuts, we hope that this caucus will bring awareness to the impact that veterinary medicine has on the everyday lives of millions of Americans and animals.”
AAVMC and AVMA government relations staff are already working closely with staff in Congressmen Yoho’s and Schrader’s offices to provide support for existing legislation and to develop strategies for increasing the visibility and effectiveness of the caucus.
The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 84,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities and dedicated to the art and science of veterinary medicine.
The AAVMC is a non-profit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Its members include all 33 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, eight departments of veterinary science, eight departments of comparative medicine, 12 international colleges of veterinary medicine, and three affiliate members. On the Web: http://www.aavmc.org
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