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Friday, March 8th 2002

The Honorable Ann Veneman
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

March 8, 2002

Dear Secretary Veneman:

On behalf of the American Hospital Association, I urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately reinstate its policy of granting J-1 visa waivers to International Medical Graduates. The American Hospital Association represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, health systems, networks and other health care provider members.

More than 20 million Americans live in areas where there is a lack of physicians to meet their medical needs. Since its inception in 1994, the USDA's J-1 waiver program has been integral to bringing medical care to many of the most underserved rural areas of the country. In many of these areas, the J-1 physician is the only source of health care.

The USDA's recent decision to abruptly cease granting J-1 waivers as an "interested governmental agency" will undermine the public's health in medically underserved areas of America. Moreover, it is unfair that the USDA has returned pending J-1 visa waivers to the applicants. Many rural hospitals had completed and submitted all necessary paperwork, and had successfully recruited a J-1 physician only to learn that pending applications would not be accepted. We understand that no formal prior notice was sent to hospitals or health care providers announcing the USDA's decision to discontinue its participation in the program.

On behalf of America's hospitals, I urge you to immediately reinstate the USDA's policy of granting J-1 waivers as an "interested government agency." Your J-1 waiver policy is an issue of vital importance to many hospitals and communities across this nation. The AHA stands ready to work with you to help address any concerns you may have regarding the program.


Rick Pollack
Executive Vice President


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