JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dozens of unvaccinated Mountain Home VA health care workers lined a busy street near the hospital protesting the federal vaccine mandate.

Workers calling themselves “Federal Workers for Freedom,” their families and supporters met on the Market Street side of Kiwanis Park Friday afternoon calling on Veterans Affairs to let them keep their jobs.

The VA was the first major federal agency to announce a vaccine mandate in July 2021. At that time, they gave workers eight weeks to get fully vaccinated.

Now, workers are not sure what their future status at the VA looks like.

“When the hard questions arise, we don’t get clear, concise answers because it’s very unknown on what is to come,” said Kara Clark, a respiratory therapist at Mountain Home.

The unvaccinated workers all applied for religious exemptions to the vaccine, but some say they’ve received what’s called an accommodation.

That means they were moved into a clinical role. Daniel McRae, a nurse, said that is an ongoing concern for trained nurses like himself.

“We cannot be reasonably accommodated in our current positions because of our religious exemption. We are all in fear for our jobs,” McRae said.

Tennessee Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger called on VA Secretary Denis McDonough to reverse the mandate in a letter earlier this month saying, “I have grave concerns about how this mandate will impact veterans’ care and affect VA employees with deeply held religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Tiffany Hartman, a nurse, expressed concern for patients if workers are asked to leave their positions or lose their jobs.

“We’re afraid that that’s going to affect veterans’ care. Because we’re going to lose providers. We’re going to lose nursing staff,” Hartman said. “All kinds of healthcare professionals are going to be forced to go to other jobs outside of the VA health system.”

Hartman said the VA’s response to the unvaccinated has varied from worker to worker.

“Some of us have just been asked to test weekly. Some of us they haven’t addressed at all,” Hartman said. “The lack of transparency is very concerning and that’s why all of us are in fear of losing our jobs that we love so much.”

Hartman said unvaccinated workers still wear PPE like facemasks inside the hospital, and she would continue doing that to keep her job.

The uncertainty has taken a toll on some, but workers like Clark just want to continue their work.

“My anxiety has been through the roof. I’ve had to see a counselor,” Clark said. “I’m just here to do my job and I want to do my job.”

News Channel 11 reached out to Mountain Home VA for information on their number of unvaccinated workers and their future employment status, but did not hear back.