Last-minute accreditation application worries arise

As deadline nears, USDA officials counsel patience

July 30, 2010 (published)
By Edie Lau

With the deadline coming Monday for renewal applications to the National Veterinary Accreditation Program (NVAP), many practitioners are fretting that they don’t know whether their paperwork was received and processed.

In message-board posts of the Veterinary Information Network, an online professional community, sentiments such as this practitioner’s are common: “Add me to the ‘worried’ chorus. I FAXed mine awhile ago and have heard nothing. Does that mean I did something wrong?"

But a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Accreditation Program said this week that due to the volume of applications, it may take a while for individuals to receive acknowledgments of their forms. “If people have sent their materials in, we are processing them as speedily as we can. No news is simply no news,” said Madelaine Fletcher, a spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees the NVAP.

“As we say right on the website,” she added, “once materials have been sent in, people may continue to practice their accredited duties.”

Accreditation by the USDA is required for veterinarians wishing to issue health certificates for animals traveling between states or out of the country. The government is requiring every veterinarian who has been accredited in the past to reapply by Aug. 2 for accreditation as part of a revamping of the system.

In the past, once a person was accredited, he or she was accredited for life. Now practitioners must reapply for accreditation every three years and complete a certain amount of training to be eligible for renewal. For practitioners who were previously accredited, the training will be available online starting late this year and can be completed at their leisure.

Practitioners seeking accreditation for the first time must take a “core orientation program” either as part of their course work in veterinary school or after graduation. Fletcher said those courses will not be available online. For clinicians who did not take the course in school, Fletcher advised contacting the area veterinarians in charge of the state in which they intend to practice for information.

In the case of veterinarians who took the course work but did not sign up to be accredited, Fletcher said a three-year window of opportunity exists to sign up. If more than three years have passed, practitioners must take the course again. The same applies to those who started but did not complete the course.

For those with questions about the program and the revised requirements, NVAP program staff can be reached at 301-734-6827. Fletcher said they will also have a booth at the American Veterinary Medical Association annual conference starting this weekend in Atlanta.

Fletcher noted that applicants may submit their paperwork electronically and may file any time before day’s end on Monday in whatever time zone they’re located.

For those who miss the deadline and wish to maintain accreditation, Fletcher said program managers plan to publish information next week in the Federal Register that “will further refine the deadline.”

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