Not Enough Vets in Your Area?

Last year, we posted an article that generated a lot of chatter among our loyal HJ readers – it discussed the debate over the supply of veterinarians in the United States. To summarize the article, some people contend that there is or will be a shortage of veterinarians while others think that there are/will be too many vets due to several foreign schools now being “viewed” by accreditation powers as U.S. equivalent institutions. This has caused concern. A key point overlooked by many, however, is this: While the overall number of veterinarians in the United States is excessive, the distribution of those veterinarians is imbalanced. And that imbalance causes service shortages in many parts of the country.

Credit: Thinkstock Photo Finding a veterinarian in some rural areas can be difficult, but Congress has a plan – one that needs some tweaking.

 The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conducted an extensive study last year to look into the supply and demand issue in greater detail. The study, called the AVMA Workforce Report, concluded:

“We estimated that the supply for veterinarians (90,200) in the U.S. in 2012 exceeded demand for veterinarians (78,950) by approximately 11,250 (or excess capacity of 12.5%) at the current levels of prices for services. Between 2012 and 2025, under a baseline scenario we projected that both supply and demand would grow by about 11% (reaching demand of 88,100 and supply of 100,400 by 2025).”

 In other words, we have too many veterinarians. 

However, horse owners in several parts of the country report that veterinarians are scarce in their area.

How do we solve this problem?

Congress has attempted to fix the problem by dangling a carrot in front of qualifying veterinarians (thanks to heavy lobbying efforts by the AVMA). About six years ago, the United States Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA) was given the authority to administer the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which would pay up to $25,000 per year towards qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in underserved areas, with payments up to three years. 

That sounds good, but there are two problems:

 1.The overall amount of funding Congress provides for the program is only enough to enroll a handful of veterinarians each year, if at all and,

2. Every veterinarian who enrolls for the program is taxed at a 39% rate for the money awarded to them.

Double take! The government takes 39 cents out of every dollar that it gives to veterinarians who enroll in the program! Do you think this is ridiculous? Ludicrous? Sensible? Logical?

 The AVMA is leaning toward ridiculous. They have introduced new legislation that will remove the 39% tax liability for veterinarians participating in the VMLRP. The new legislation is called the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act of 2013 (S.553 / H.R. 1125). You can find more information here. Now is a crucial time for the bill since it is moving its way through Congressional committee review.

If you feel that you need more veterinarians in your area, and you think that it is just flat-out wrong for the government to take back 39% of money that it is supposed to be giving out on behalf of tax payers to ensure that our animals get access to the veterinary skill they need, then make your voice heard by sending a message to your Congressmen, women, and representatives.

Time is of the essence here.

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