Binkley is a West Point graduate who became addicted to painkillers and confessed last year to robbing two drug stores, including one in Mountain View, to get the medication he craved. He now faces a 12-year minimum sentence for his crimes, which he says resulted from his effort to numb the pain from post traumatic stress disorder and a hairline hip fracture that went undiagnosed for three years by the Veterans Administration.
Binkley's story is remarkable, but probably not unique, especially as more and more soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan return to the States after near-lethal attacks in those troubled countries. Often they come home traumatized and needing months or years of therapy, which they may or may not receive from the country that called them to service.
Despite that growing tragedy, we doubt if many West Point alumni and former Army Rangers are facing long jail terms for committing robbery to obtain the prescription drugs that they needed to overcome the impact of PTSD and a fractured hip. And what makes Binkley's case even more compelling is that only after his parents paid for an additional MRI test did a private doctor find the hip fracture their son had cited all along as the reason for his unbearable pain.
Luckily for Binkley, some of his old football teammates from the Mountain View Marauders, a local Pop Warner football team, are lobbying for him. Better yet, his Los Altos family has the means to give him a good legal defense. (Binkley has duel trials going in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.)
We hope VA officials will testify at his trials that there might have been a different outcome if Binkley had had the proper care, and if his hip fracture had been diagnosed earlier.
As Sargent Binkley's case demonstrates, the VA must redouble its efforts to make sure thousands of injured soldiers who come home needing treatment for debilitating injuries — both physical ones and emotional ones, like PTSD — are cared for before they return to civilian life.
If they are not helped, these men and women are likely to emerge later as our outcasts, much as happened following Vietnam, unable to overcome war's worst nightmares even after coming home.