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David Vs. Goliath: Nurse Wins Whistleblowing Lawsuit Against VA

By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4) - A longtime nurse has won her case her against the VA. She dragged the government to court and won after being harassed, and passed over for blowing the whistle at the Denver VA Medical Center.

"I felt very, very vindicated," Diane McNamara said.

Diane McNamara
Diane McNamara (credit: CBS)

After a 3-year battle against the U.S. government, McNamara has emerged victorious.

"It was one of the battles of my life and quite honestly I think of it as one of the greatest achievements of my life," she told CBS4's Tom Mustin

McNamara is a 24-year Navy veteran, and former overnight nurse at the Denver VA Medical Center. In 2013 she filed a suit citing serious problems with the nursing care.

Diane McNamara
Diane McNamara (credit: CBS)

"Shopping online, playing solitaire on the internet in lieu of monitoring patients -- and these are patients with heart arrhythmias. Patients in the waiting room that would run out of oxygen and nobody noticed," McNamara said.

Beginning in 2009 McNamara brought her concerns to her supervisors for more than a year. During that time she says she was ridiculed as a whistleblower and passed over for promotions.

Diane McNamara
(credit: CBS)

"I got labeled a troublemaker. So I called Washington, and I did that thinking, 'I am going to be in for the fight of my life,'" she said.

Before leaving her job McNamara had her case well documented.

"I had dates and times and patient names."

Diane McNamara
(credit: CBS)

She represented herself during two days of testimony before a federal judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board. Three years and three months later the judge ruled in her favor, calling the witnesses against her "un-credible."

Because of McNamara's case VA nurses and supervisors now undergo additional training.

McNamara says she'll receive around $20,000 in back pay and lost wages, and more importantly, the satisfaction of knowing her struggle has paid dividends for her fellow veterans.

Diane McNamara
Diane McNamara (center) (credit: CBS)

"I miss taking care of the veterans, I really do. They have a special place in my heart."

The Department of Veterans Affairs sent CBS4 a statement saying in part, " We are in the process of complying with the judge's decision on this matter. In 2009 we investigated the issues raised by Ms. McNamara and took appropriate action to protect patient safety and provide a high-performance network of care to best serve veterans."

Tom Mustin is CBS4's Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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