The biggest news from DC this week was winter storm Stella. Or actually maybe it was the White House releasing a preliminary budget, the aftermath, and also Congress debating health care. That pretty much sums everything up.
We celebrated some birthdays with singing and cake: personal highlight of the week?
Getting back to the AVMA and our issues…. I had the opportunity to meet with two United States Senate offices this week. The first was with Senator Casey’s office (PA) and the second was Senator Baldwin’s office (WI). These meetings are almost always with staff members in the member’s office and usually last just 15-20 minutes. During the meeting we discuss current legislative issues important to veterinarians including bills currently in congress and issues in general. Most of the time it is simply an education session with staff members about issues important to veterinarians ranging from horse soring, compounding drugs, tax issues, the farm bill, and countless other items depending on the season. Currently these discussions for us center on higher education costs and the debt levels of veterinarians. There are a variety of proposals in congress with different ideas on addressing student loan debt. Often times these ideas are for an entire group of students, undergraduates, graduates, or sometimes all students. Other times bills are introduced which only affect one profession or one type of student. One bill recently introduced in particular relates directly to veterinarians.
HR1268 and S487 are equivalent bills titled the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA). They relate to the VMLRP which incentivizes veterinarians to practice in underserved areas as food animal or public practice veterinarians. Since 2010 there have been 388 awards given throughout 45 states with 1200 veterinarians applying. Each veterinarian is eligible for $25,000 each year for three years of loan repayment after signing a contract with the USDA in these designated shortage areas. Unfortunately as the program is currently written, all awards are taxed at 39% which means each $75,000 total award actually costs $104,250 to the program (The USDA pays the tax directly to the IRS on behalf of the veterinarian.) This tax leads to less veterinarians being placed due to the cost. The enhancement act would eliminate this 39% tax and therefore enable the placement of more veterinarians to work in places where they are needed most, and also receive loan repayment help. Eliminating this tax would make the veterinary program equivalent in administration to the program for doctors and dentists. You may have seen the press release from the AVMA, but you can help the cause here: http://avmacan.avma.org/avma/issues/alert/?alertid=75482626
Winter storm Stella made national news this week as snow piled up in the northeast. DC did not receive the worst of it, but with a poor overall response plan large snow storms lead to cancelled meetings, closed offices, and long transportation delays for those that do venture in to the city. Fortunately we were able to largely work on issues digitally and prepare for Wednesday. It did not take long to warm up and for the snow to melt. An evening hike around an area park showed wildlife and spring springing with countless birds, squirrels, and even several deer being active around the stream.
Thanks for reading folks! Peace. Love. Manatees.