MOREHEAD CITY, Carteret County - Protestors gathered outside the Veterans Affairs office in Morehead City on Wednesday to bring attention to the significant number of vacancies within the VA system nationwide.
"The overall goal is to save the VA and not have it contract a piece at a time," said Essie Hogue, President of the AFGE Local 1738.
Hogue and many others protested because they felt they're losing their VA. Officials say nationwide there are 34,000 job vacancies at the agency. Protestors said the shortage of workers impacts teh many veterans seeking help.
"Takes longer and longer to get appointments when veterans come out and say they are suffering from depression," Hogue said. "They need to see a doctor ... well if you don't have enough you can only see enough patients in a day."
Officials said this issue is on the national level. Locally, there are only three job vacancies and those are in the process of being filled, said Jonathan Forte, associate administrator in Greenville. The positions Forte said are a medical director, a tele-health coordinator and a nursing position.
"I can only speak for VA staffing in Eastern North Carolina and we are meeting the need," Forte said. "I'm 100 percent behind my staff in Morehead City and Greenville."
Officials from the VA nationally released a statement saying the workforce challenges mirror those of the healthcare industry as a whole.