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Federal hiring freeze affecting VA

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Nearly every federal agency faces a hiring freeze right now based on an executive order this week from President Donald Trump.

Thousands of open jobs are in the Veterans Administration and many local veterans are worried about what this means for the future of their healthcare.

As a Navy veteran and cancer patient, John Dale has spent a good chunk of his life after the service dealing with the VA.

“It’s ludicrous, the bureaucracy that we’re seeing," he said.

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump promised changes at the VA if elected. One week into the job, VA centers like the Kernersville VA Health Care Center find themselves dealing with a hiring freeze.

According to the order, no vacant positions may be filled and no new ones may be created. Some federal agencies are exempt, including the military, and positions that fall under "national security" and "public safety."

“I think the VA in particular, if you look at the problems that have plagued people, hiring more people isn't the answer, it's hiring the right people," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

The VA's website lists more than 3,500 current job openings. Four of them are at the facility in Kernersville and another 18 are open at the center in Salisbury.

It's not unusual for veterans to have to wait a long time for care, and some veterans worry the freeze could increase wait time. It's frustrating for Michael Hoeft, who was medically discharged from the Army.

“I kind of assumed I would get healthcare right away, but it took about six months for me to see a doctor and six months after that to even get any sort of care," he said. “To put a freeze on things, it doesn’t seem like the right move.”

But Dale, who's being treated for cancer at the VA, sees a chance things might change.

“It’s good in the sense that okay, they’re stopping hiring," Dale said. "And now they need to start cleaning house.”

Whether they agree with the president's first move or not, these vets have a common goals.

“Everything is just bogged down. But the quality, it’s kind of half and half. It’s there," Hoeft said.

"In most cases, more than 90 percent of the cases, I would easily say, veterans are receiving wonderful care," Dale said.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Snyder said the agency will try to get around the freeze. He hopes to exempt jobs deemed necessary for "public safety," potentially including doctors, nurses, and what he calls "frontline caregivers."