8 Investigates

Local vet suffering from night terrors says VA made him wait for help

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -- From tossing and turning to kicking and even standing up in his bed, Greg Tucker has experienced his share of terrifying and restless nights.

The local veteran suffers from night terrors.

"I was in a cage and being held as a prisoner,” the local vet said, describing his latest night terror.

During his time in the Marines as a narcotics detective dog handler and in the army as a medevac pilot, Tucker has experienced several disturbing encounters, including a confrontation with some North Koreans.

"They didn't shoot at us, but sure got our attention,” Tucker said recalling the event.

And now at night, Tucker feels he's under attack when he sleeps. 

"A lot of time I can't see who they are,” he says about the so-called attackers in his nightmares.

He set up a camera to capture the night terrors. Some of the nightmares so bad, they've knocked him out of bed.

One time, he hit the ac unit at a hotel and cut open his shoulder. More recently, Tucker ended up with a concussion when the nightmares landed him on the floor of his bedroom.

"And just went over and landed on the top of my head. I remember seeing stars,” he says.

Fearful the next terror and tumble could be worse the vet went to McGuire VA Medical Center.

There, he was referred to the mental health clinic.

Tucker has been there years before and wanted to see a different provider.

"I am frightened. I don't think they have my best interest."

He was handed a request to change provider form.

"And the lady tells me it's going to take a least 30 days to process this form and it's going to take more time to get an appointment,” says Tucker.

Frightened and frustrated, he stopped by the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder office to talk to a doctor there.

However, when he showed her his video of the night terrors, he was let down again.

"She looked at it for about 10 seconds and said, 'I am not going to watch five minutes of this. I don't want to see this, 'and that kind of broke my heart," Tucker explained.

While you might think a mental health issue would be a priority, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, the average wait time for the clinic at McGuire is more than a week -- at least 8 days.

Earlier this year, a report ordered by Congress found veterans who seek help for PTSD, substance abuse and other mental health conditions at the VA are still being held back by VA bureaucracy or clinics that are short-staffed.

"You're supposed to be taking care of us,” Tucker said.

As the veteran waits for an appointment, he's not sleeping. He’s trying avoid what terrorizes him at night.

"What I am doing now is, I will get three or four days and I am afraid to go to sleep,” he explained.

Tucker believes our nation's vets who have risked their lives serving their country deserve better.

"People have got to know,” he said.

McGuire tells us all VA health care facilities offer same-day urgent mental health services for veterans who need them, though it's not clear what type of condition qualifies for same day services.

We asked if the McGuire mental health clinic is short staffed. We were told no.

Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.


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