TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Peter Surck spent 20 years in the U.S. Marine corps, including some harrowing moments in Iraq in a bloodbath called Mosul.
He remembers his first exposure to combat was like something out of a movie. “You heard the mosque music come out and then all of a sudden sheer hell broke loose, and fire started, enemy fire just started coming out, and our guys started firing back and everybody just started shooting,” Peter recalled.
Later in Liberia, Mr. Surck and dozens of his buddies became extremely ill from anti-malaria medication. Many, including him, contracted the disease. Peter claims he still suffers side effects.
“Horrible dreams, I get tremors once in awhile, I have neurological problems,” he added.
The Navy diagnosed Peter with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Department of Veterans Affairs treated him in New Jersey for years.
Last week he attended his first therapy session at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital’s Department of Mental Health.
Shockingly, their resident therapist told Peter he didn’t have PTSD–he was only there for the drugs.
“I went in there, and you know, ready to bare my soul to somebody and they stick their hand down my throat and rip my heart out,” Peter said.
“My gut reaction is, that’s wretched, that’s horrible,” said Dr. Candice Stewart-Sabin.
Dr. Sabin, a psychologist, runs Vet 2 Vet Reconnect, a private non-profit that works to help veterans obtain benefits they may be entitled to and other services.
According to Dr. Sabin, a remark like that could set off a veteran suffering from PTSD.
“You could put a gun to someone’s head doing that in my opinion,” she explained.
Dr. Sabin spent 10 years at the V.A. building trust with PTSD patients.
She says comments like that are destructive.
I reached out to Haley’s Public Affairs Office for an interview and asked how telling a PTSD patient that he is only after drugs fits into their various types of trauma-related treatment. The office sent a statement back saying, “Treatment and recovery is a collaboration between clinicians and veterans.” It made no reference to the remark by its therapist.
Haley contacted Peter and offered him another appointment with a different doctor in September.
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