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AVMA Sends Veterinarians to Capitol to Discuss Legislation with Lawmakers

AVMA Sends Veterinarians to Capitol to Discuss Legislation with Lawmakers
More than 170 veterinarians conducted meetings with congressional lawmakers, asking for their support of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and the Association Health Plans Act of 2019. Photo: Shutterstock.com/Colin Dewar
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Washington, D.C. — The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) brought more than 170 veterinarians to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and discuss two pieces of legislation: the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (S. 1163/H.R. 2746), which aims to close the gap of veterinary care in rural areas; and the Association Health Plans Act of 2019 (S. 1170/H.R. 2294), which would help expand the AVMA-sponsored association health program. The veterinarians conducted more than 200 meetings with congressional offices.

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRP) would help close veterinary access gaps by placing additional food animal and public health veterinarians in U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated veterinary shortage areas. The VMLRP will pay up to $25,000 each year toward qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in a NIFA-designated veterinarian shortage situation for a period of three years.

The Association Health Plans Act of 2019 would help expand the AVMA-sponsored association health program for members to ensure more veterinarians are able to access health insurance designed to meet their unique needs. Currently, the AVMA health program is available in the following states: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. The Association Health Plans Act of 2019 would allow association health plans to be offered in additional states, and expand them to allow the inclusion of veterinarians who are sole proprietors as well as those who are employers.

Three veterinarians currently serve as members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Ted Yoho of Florida.

AVMA Congressional Fellowship Program

Dr. Deborah Thomson, who received her DVM degree and certificate in international veterinary medicine from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and served as head veterinarian for the California Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps during the 2018 Camp Fire, will begin a year of advocacy work on behalf of veterinarians and veterinary teams all across the country in AVMA’s Washington, D.C., office this fall.

Dr. Deborah Thomson

Dr. Deborah Thomson, AVMA‘s Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C. Photo: Courtesy AVMA

Dr. Thomson was selected to take part in the highly competitive 2019-2020 AVMA Fellowship Program, which places veterinarians in congressional staff positions to serve as scientific advisors to our nation’s policymakers. AVMA fellows play pivotal roles in shaping and influencing legislation on a wide range of issues, bringing important veterinary perspectives into public policy discussions.

During her tenure as an AVMA fellow, Dr. Thomson will spend one year in Washington, D.C., as a full-time staff member for a congressional office or committee. She’ll use her veterinary expertise to provide guidance on policy issues such as food safety, public health, animal welfare, research and small business policies.

The 2019-2020 AVMA Fellowship Program will run from the last week in August 2019 through August 2020. The 2020-2021 application period will open in fall 2019.

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