by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. - Veterans in five local counties tell Eyewitness News they are not receiving the medical care they need.
Veterans in Richmond County are now collecting signatures on a petition to demand more doctors and medical staff at the VA office in Hamlet, N.C.
The office serves veterans in Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties in North Carolina, and Chesterfield and Marlborough counties in South Carolina -- but only has one permanent doctor.
Veterans told Channel 9 they often have to wait hours to see a doctor, and it could take weeks just to schedule an appointment.
"That one doctor cannot see all those patients, write those prescriptions in an eight-hour period," said Vietnam veteran Ed O'Neal.
O'Neal is a decorated Army medic who won the Purple Heart four times. He has been advocating for veterans’ rights and meeting with officials at the N.C. headquarters in Fayetteville to see what more can be done.
"We definitely need two doctors," said O'Neal.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, officials at VA headquarters told Eyewitness News they were committed to veterans' care and hoped to hire a second permanent doctor for the Hamlet office by the end of September.
However, officials said it had been difficult attracting good candidates to the rural area in Richmond County.
In the meantime, they encourage veterans having difficulty receiving care to contact them on their website at http://www.fayettevillenc.va.gov/about/Ask_The_Director.asp.