A former federal employee union president is wracked with regret because veterans likely died at a time when she knew about gross misconduct within her Department of Veterans Affairs facility but didn’t tell congressional leaders because they were Republicans.

“If I would’ve gone to him two years ago, who knows what kind of lives could’ve been saved,” Germaine Clarno told a radio interviewer Monday, referring to the Republican leader of a VA subcommittee. Clarno, a lifelong Democrat and social worker at the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, Ill., was president of the union representing doctors at the hospital as the deadly wait-time scandal unfolded.

Dozens of veterans have died in recent years while waiting for appointments with doctors at multiple VA hospitals and care centers around the nation. But VA staffers systematically manipulated records to make it seem like they didn’t have long waits. The problems became so severe by 2013, that as many as 40 patients died at just the Phoenix facility.

The same practices took place at Hines, with the knowledge of its director. Additional problems also plagued Hines, like heart scans getting discarded without being read.

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