USDA Veterinary Loan Repayment

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Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
USDA’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of the debt incurred in pursuit of their veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in certain high-priority veterinary shortage situations. The Interim Final Rule describing proposed implementation of the VMLRP, authorized by the National Veterinary Medical Services Act (NVMSA), has been published in the Federal Register. Also, a tentative 12-month schedule for implementing the program has been established.

Veterinarians are critical to the national food safety and food security infrastructures, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans; however, major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other specialty areas.  A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of 4 years of professional veterinary medical training. The VMLRP was established as a remedy.

Background
In January 2003, NVMSA was passed into law adding section 1415A to the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1997. This law established a new Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (7 U.S.C. 3151a) authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out a program of entering into agreements with veterinarians under which they agree to provide veterinary services in veterinarian shortage situations. Subsequently, Section 7105 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-246, amended section 1415A to revise the determination of veterinarian shortage situations to consider (1) geographical areas that the Secretary determines have a shortage of veterinarians; and (2) areas of veterinary practice that the Secretary determines have a shortage of veterinarians, such as food animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, and food safety. This section also added that priority should be given to agreements with veterinarians for the practice of food animal medicine in veterinarian shortage situations.

Projected Timeline
The following timeline represents the tentative dates for each phase of the launch of the VMLRP. For further program details, please review information provided here and at the other Web links referenced below. 

July 9, 2009

Publication in the Federal Register of the Interim Final Rule describing implementation of the VMLRP, authorized by the NVMSA  

July 9 to
September 8, 2009

60-day public comment period

Mid-September 2009

Publication in the Federal Register of the Solicitation for Veterinarian Shortage Situation Nominations from State and Insular Area Animal Health Officials or Designees (60-day solicitation period)

Mid-December 2009

Publication in the Federal Register of the Notice of Selected Veterinarian Shortage Situations (also on CSREES Web site)

Early January 2010

Publication in the Federal Register of the Request for Applications for participation in the VMLRP (also on CSREES Web site; applications solicited for a 90-day period)

June 2010

Offers made to selected individual veterinarian applicants


Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Implementation
According to veterinary workforce studies published by the National Academies of Science (Animal Health at the Crossroads and Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science), the Government Accounting Office and The Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition, there are significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians, AND VETERINARIANS IN CERTAIN OTHER SPECIALTY AREAS, serving in the private, corporate, and public sectors.  A leading cause for the shortage of VETERINARIANS IN THESE SERVICE SECTORS is the heavy educational debt load incurred by veterinarians in the course of the 4 years of professional veterinary medical training.  Opportunities to pay down educational debt are greater for veterinarians who pursue more lucrative careers in other specialty veterinary practice sectors, and this represents an understandable incentive against selection of a career in food supply veterinary medicine, even for veterinarians who would strongly prefer to practice in the food animal medicine sector.  The VMLRP is designed to help retire a significant amount of the qualifying educational debt (up to $25,000 per year for 3 or 4 years of service in the VMLRP) incurred consequent to pursuit of a DVM or equivalent degree at an accredited U.S. college of veterinary of veterinary medicine.  In addition, CSREES will pay up to 39 percent of the total amount of the loan repayments made in a calendar year to reimburse program participants for the tax liability incurred as a result of their participation in VMLRP.

The program is not authorized to provide repayments for any government or commercial loans incurred during the pursuit of another degree, such as an associate or bachelor degree.  Consequently, any consolidated loans (e.g., combined loans for bachelor and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees) would be ineligible.

In exchange for loan repayments, veterinarians selected to participate in the program will agree to provide professional veterinary services for 3 or 4 years in high priority veterinary shortage situations that have been nominated by state animal health officials, evaluated by a peer panel of experts in animal health, and designated as such by CSREES.  Because funding is limited, not all veterinarians applying to the VMLRP are expected to receive loan repayment awards. 

Public Comment
This rule is effective July 9. The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) must receive comments by September 8, 2009, for them to be considered in the final rule. All comments received will be posted without change, including any personal information provided. Submissions received must be identified by agency name (CSREES) and “RIN 0524-AA43.”  Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments;
  • E-mail: Include Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0524-AA43 in the subject line of the message;
  • Fax: 202-401-7752;
  • Mail: paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions should be submitted to Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; U.S. Department of Agriculture; STOP 2299; 140 Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, D.C. 20250-2299; or
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Room 2258, Waterfront Centre; 800 9th Street, SW; Washington, D.C. 20024.

Links and Contact Information
Interim Final Rule for the VMLRP, published July 9, in the Federal Register, Document 2009-15596.

For Further Information Contact: Gary Sherman, national program leader for Veterinary Science; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; U.S. Department of Agriculture; STOP 2220; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, D.C. (202) 50-2220; or by telephone, (202 )401–4952, or fax (202) 401-6156.



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