May 24, 2012

An Advocate’s Work is Never Done

By Lacy Strom

Up to this point, I’ve indulged in expressing the joys of being in DC.  However, as I near the completion of my externship, I want to provide a better update on the legislative issues I’ve been advocating.  Since this is appropriation season, I’ve spoken to every Congressional legislative assistant about the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and the Veterinary Services Investment Act (VSIA).


My district Representative, Mick Mulvaney, and I.


I imagine by now many of you are familiar with the loan repayment program.  Both the Senate and President’s budget is keeping funding for this program level at $4.9 million, and we are pushing for the House to do likewise.  What you may not be familiar with though is the VSIA, which establishes a competitive grant program for veterinarians, state VMAs, or specialty groups like bovine or swine practitioners to compete for money to be used in designated shortage areas.  This would mean a local practitioner could obtain money to purchase a truck and stock it with supplies to implement mobile services, or the state VMA/specialty groups could use it for further training through CE events or the establishment of more externship/internship/residency programs.  It has been authorized in the Senate’s Farm Bill at $10 million, and we are advocating for the House to also authorize the initiative.  Once passed by Congress, the formal rules for the program will be written and provide increased support for veterinarians in low-income areas attempting to meet shortage needs.

I’ve also been addressing the issue of H.R. 1406, or the Fairness to Pet Owner’s Act, which would require all veterinarians to provide a written prescription to clients, even if they intend to dispense the medications themselves.  It also would require vets to provide written notification to the client that we are required to provide said written prescription.  All of this is redundant to our profession, and further federal regulation when states already monitor such actions it completely unnecessary.  This is one bill that is under active pursuit of defeat, and though there’s little movement on the bill currently that could change at any moment, but most staffers I’ve talked with seem to suggest it won’t receive much support from their Congressmen.


Rep. Joe Wilson and I.

These are just the issues I’ve chosen to advocate during my time here, but if you ever have the opportunity to visit, I would suggest looking over our legislative issues and speaking to those that interest you most.  I would have truly loved to discuss research funding, antibiotic resistance, or more animal welfare issues, but we often only receive a few minutes of time to communicate our message, so distillation is key.  And while it’s fun to talk with staffers, occasionally, either through coordinated scheduling or mere coincidence, you get lucky and are able to meet the Congressmen themselves.  I had the good fortune of meeting Senator Lindsey Graham, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, and Rep. Joe Wilson while here, and though it was impossible to deliver any of our talking points, as the Congressmen usually remain in a constant state of motion, at least 1/3 of my encounters have been composed of enjoyable conversation.  I’m counting that as a win!