DENVER (CBS4) – A former nurse who claims she saw patients being mistreated at the Denver VA hospital is filing a federal whistleblower lawsuit claiming she was punished for exposing problems.

Diane McNamara, a 24 year Navy veteran, is a former overnight nurse at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center at 9th Avenue and Clermont Street. She has filed a suit, citing serious problems with the nursing care and retaliation against her when she voiced her concerns.

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Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center (credit: CBS)

Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center (credit: CBS)

“I saw nurses reading magazines and playing solitaire rather than taking care of sick patients,” she told CBS4. “And that doesn’t sit well with me.”

She said she saw patients “out in the waiting room unattended for three and four hours where their oxygen tanks had run dry and nobody even noticed.”

Diane McNamara, center (credit: CBS)

Diane McNamara, center (credit: CBS)

In 2008 McNamara worked the weekend shift at the hospital. She has pages of documents showing what she calls “basic Nursing 101 incompetance” problems with the care for the veterans.

She took her concerns to supervisors for more than a year with no response.

“Instead of dealing with that and enabling the nurses to raise their level of care, I just became the bad guy,” she said.

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During that time McNamara says she was passed over for promotions and was the subject of malicious gossip.

“I had been retaliated in numerous ways many, many times for whistleblower activity,” she said.

In 2011 McNamara eventually left for a new job, and contacted Washington DC with her complaints.

On Tuesday a federal judge will hear her case before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Diane says taking on the government is the last thing she wants to do, but she says justice for veterans is worth it.

“It’s kind of a David and Goliath sort of thing,” she said.

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When reached to discuss this story, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs told CBS4 they don’t comment on personnel issues.