Senate Legislation Aims to Enhance Access to Physical Therapists for Patients in Underserved Communities

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, May 15, 2011 — To help increase access to needed physical therapy services for patients who live in rural and urban underserved communities, Sens Jon Tester (D-MT) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) recently introduced legislation that would authorize physical therapists (PTs) to participate in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The NHSC loan repayment program provides up to $30,000 in loan forgiveness per year for two years of service in an underserved area.

"The Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act (S 975 ) will ensure that PTs who are burdened with student debt can practice in rural and urban underserved communities that cannot offer the high-end salaries that other geographical areas can," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "We're grateful to Senators Testor and Wicker for recognizing the need to provide PTs with student loan relief that will, in turn, allow them to seek careers in locations that desperately need our services."

The average recent graduate (1-5 years out of school) from a physical therapy program carries about $83,138 of debt, with the total average debt for this group of students being $96,149, according to an APTA survey. When asked if student loan debt affected their job choice, 63% survey respondents said "yes."

The US House of Representatives introduced companion legislation to S 975 last month.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 77,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.