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Dec-03-2007 07:41printcomments

PTSD: VA's Current Snow Job

Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician, Toxicologist and Pharmacologist.

US Marines
US Marines. Photo: NATO

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - I had the dubious experience to watch and listen to the VA's new treatment for PTSD, "virtual reality", on ABC local news in Portland, Oregon. I was both fascinated and outraged.

Two doctors were directing the "experiment" of treating soldiers with "terror movies". One was Capt. Greg Reger, a psychologist who was manning the computer/player. The other was a civilian, Dr. Miles McFall of Seattle, Washington. It wasn't stated if he was a physician. He told the news reporter he was an expert on PTSD.

With the VA and the Army both admitting their treatment of PTSD veterans was a colossal failure, I can't imagine any doctor admitting he was involved in the colossal failure of the treatments.

I was astonished by the virtual reality experiment. It was about quartermaster troops in trucks driving in Iraq. I will admit truck drivers are in considerable hazard, but nothing compared to the infantry, who do the attacking, killing, wounding and dying. There is no comparison of the hazards of the two branches.

Dr. McFall admitted that the virtual reality experiment may be distressing. He doesn't know the half of it. Infantry combat is the most terrifying endeavor of mankind. The infantry has the highest casualty rates of both wounding and dying at 70 percent of the total. Tankers were next at about 5 percent. I suspect truck drivers may be a bit higher, but I recently read of a transportation battalion of maybe a thousand men having something less than 20 deaths in a year.

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There seems to be one important fact that should be recognized but is not. There are several levels of PTSD disability. Level one is the least and it is probably little more than a minor nuisance, soon forgotten. Level ten is the most severe and the afflicted PTSD patient may probably never recover.

The Oregonian newspaper had a story about a combat Marine, Cpl. James Blake Miller. He had gone through extreme combat and survived physically far more than should be expected of anyone in close combat.

My estimate is that Cpl. Miller is a 9 or 10, or at the least an 8. It will be very interesting but heart-breaking to follow his saga in the news. He is but a microcosm of what is happening to hundreds of thousands of infantrymen who are surviving physically but ending up with PTSD.

It is possible that the PTSD veterans in the level 3, 4 or 5 may get some benefit from these "terror movies" but I doubt if any one of the above level 5 will be able to tolerate it. It is certain those above level 7 will not.

If anyone thinks this brave Marine is avoiding treatment they are demented. He would like to escape the demons attacking his mind and soul.

As a combat veteran, I can empathize with him. Who wants to endure the confrontation with the psychologists who can't possibly understand the damage to his mind and soul, but yet assure him "we are going to make you OK"?

Brain depressing medications are not going to help him according to VA reports and neither are anti-depressants. If there were anti-rage medications, they might help. In the meantime, Cpl. Miller is the tip of the iceberg.

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Skip Rizzo January 6, 2008 8:58 pm (Pacific time)

Dr. Leverque--From your last comment, I see that you are so set in your ways, that the data and the testimonials from soldiers who have benefited from this treatment are lost to you. My last effort is to say that as of our last count, 11 of the first fourteen soldiers to complete our VR PTSD Exposure therapy approach are in remission at 3 month follow-up. There is quite a bit more than a "little knowledge" here...perhaps someday you will open your mind and not encourage vets to hide away from real or virtual reality--that would be a horrible option, especially when such a promising treatment is now available.

Dr. Phil Leveque (REPLY) December 28, 2007 11:01 pm (Pacific time)

To DeNang66: Would a woman who has been raped benefit from Virtual Reality Treatment? Answer: according to the "fake shrink" psychologists they would say Yes. Bad question = bad answer.

Dr. Phil Leveque (REPLY) December 28, 2007 10:59 pm (Pacific time)

To Skip Rizzo: Yes, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. You are the best example I've heard of.

Dr. Phil Leveque (REPLY) December 28, 2007 10:57 pm (Pacific time)

To VET613 and Vietnam MP: Your experiences are bad but typical. Beware of these "fake shrink" psychologists.

Skip Rizzo December 15, 2007 12:39 am (Pacific time)

Just got back from a trip to Israel to consult with some former IDF members on using the VR approach over there and only now catching the comments to my post. I understand your hesitancy to see how exposure therapy operates, but no one is pushed beyond their limits and the experience is very gradual. I suggest that rather than hear it from me, that you go to my FTP site and download an ABC Nightline piece that has an actual patient who was treated with our system and let him tell it. This video can be found among many others at: Regarding Neal Feldman's question of my credentials, just Goggle my name.

Seeking Paralyzed Veterans December 9, 2007 8:43 pm (Pacific time)

The Paralyzed Veterans organization contacted Dr. Leveque recently and we somehow lost the contact information. If that party can get in touch with us we appreciate it, just leave a comment here or email us at

Neal Feldman December 4, 2007 11:29 pm (Pacific time)

Hey Tim wanna be the Fourth Horseman of the apocalypse? LOL Ah well...

Tim King December 4, 2007 10:02 am (Pacific time)

Wow; Jefferson and Neal and Dr. Leveque standing together on an issue... I like it! There is plenty of hope I tell you.

Jefferson December 4, 2007 9:46 am (Pacific time)

DaNang 66: Good one!

Neal Feldman December 4, 2007 9:03 am (Pacific time)

I, too, wonder about the legitimacy of the claims that the treatment for trauma is more of the same trauma. It seriously flies in the face of logic and reason. Not saying it is not possible as there have been instances in the past where apparently counterintuitive ideas were the way to go, but they are few and far between. We know Dr Leveque's qualifications... Skip, what are yours? Ah well...

DaNang66 December 4, 2007 4:55 am (Pacific time)

I'm 100% PTSD and have a question. Would a woman who has been raped benefit from a VR of a gang rape? This is what I think the VR experence would be like for me.

Skip Rizzo December 4, 2007 12:16 am (Pacific time)

Sometimes a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. The VR application that is mentioned in this article does in fact have an infantry foot patrol environment. What Dr. Leveque saw was a news broadcast that only show the desert road scene. I suggest that Dr. Leveque take the trip to Ft. Lewis to actually see the whole system and report back to his readers what it is really all about. So far we have had success with the system with soldiers who did not benefit from other forms of treatment and with some very serious cases as well. Opinions can get emotional on this treatment, but exposure therapy is the ONLY form of PTSD treatment that has scientific evidence in support of it's efficacy, and this was documented in the recent report by the National Academies of Science.

Vietnam MP December 3, 2007 6:23 pm (Pacific time)

When I was screened for PTSD one Psyciatrist was a Nazi lover and had a whole wall of Hilter Books. I simply told him your more screwed up then me. He surely had a perment ticket to Disney Land. These PTSD Doctors I saw are the bottom feeders in medical practice. With Honor I Served!

Editor: Hey MP, just FYI our Doctor Leveque is the real thing

VET613 December 3, 2007 8:26 am (Pacific time)

Hello Dr. Leveque, As a participant in the "other PTSD test"...the one that does not work. I certainly would be concerned about t he "new cure" you describe. D. Tracy

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