Veterinary accreditation papers missing? Call USDA

Agency says applicants should have documentation by now

November 17, 2011 (published)
By Edie Lau

To all veterinarians who applied in the past year or two to the revamped National Veterinary Accreditation Program: If you haven’t received reauthorization by now, call your state or regional U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office.

USDA officials say everyone should have been issued a new accreditation number and renewal date at this point, and those who haven’t should let the agency know.

Recent message board posts on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for the profession, indicate that as of this week, there were at least a few veterinarians missing their accreditation documentation.

“Anyone else still waiting for the USDA to send them this number?” Dr. Heather Bjornebo, a practitioner in Tempe, Ariz., asked on Monday.

One respondent said she, too, was still waiting. Others said they received the information by telephone or email after they had inquired.

Calling the USDA is exactly what the agency recommends, which is a departure from previous advice, given when accreditation program staff were swamped processing applications.

The flurry of paperwork was prompted by the government’s decision to reform the National Veterinary Accreditation Program, which was established in 1921 to enable private practitioners to help federal veterinarians control diseases in animals. In addition, veterinarians wishing to issue health certifications for animals traveling out of state or out of the country must be accredited. Under the original rules, those who became accredited maintained that designation for life and needed no further training.

The revised program requires members to apply for renewal every three years and complete three to six hours of training in the interim. (The number of hours of training is dependent upon the level of accreditation a member seeks.)

Although the program is voluntary, most of the roughly 90,000 veterinarians in the United States participate. In early 2010 — before the program revision took place — the USDA counted 71,000 accredited practitioners, although agency officials indicated that the number likely was inflated because it hadn’t been updated for changes such as retirements and deaths.

Workabeba “Abby” Yigzaw, a spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which oversees the veterinary accreditation program, said 63,350 previously accredited veterinarians elected to participate in the revised program.

The USDA invited veterinarians to reapply for accreditation starting in February 2010, setting a deadline of Aug. 2, 2010. That deadline ultimately was extended to Oct. 1, 2011.

“All applications have been processed and assigned national accreditation numbers,” Yigzaw said Wednesday by email. “If there are any accredited veterinarian who have not yet received their (number) they should contact their USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Area Office where they perform their accredited duties.”

Contact information for the state and regional offices is posted online.

Darlene Robinson, a veterinary program assistant in the agency’s Oregon office, said applicants were issued accreditation numbers and renewal dates by letter or e-mail, both of which may have been overlooked in some cases.

“I’ve heard from some people that when they realized that they had it, it was in such a generic kind of envelope that it would have been easy to miss,” Robinson said. In the case of an email notification, she noted, “It may have gotten sorted to the junk box.”

Bjornebo, the veterinarian in Arizona who wondered Monday about the whereabouts of her accreditation confirmation, subsequently found out that the USDA sent the information to an outdated address, rather than to the address she gave on her application. Bjornebo said she received the information by email on Tuesday.

In Sherwood, Ore., Dr. Kathryn Utsey is one of two veterinarians at Crossroads Veterinary Hospital who did not receive an accreditation reauthorization by mail, either traditional or electronic. Two other veterinarians at the practice did receive notification letters. Why Utsey didn't receive her letter is a mystery: She applied early — in March 2010 during a conference of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. Her boss applied at the same time and received his letter one year later.

Their practice manager called the USDA several months ago, Utsey said, and was able to obtain the missing information by telephone.

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