Double Amputee Rep. Tammy Duckworth Rips IRS Contractor For Receiving VA Disability For Prep School Sports Injury
By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 27, 2013 6:00PM
Illinois congresswoman Tammy Duckworth tore into a politically-connected contractor over Veterans Administration disability benefits he received as a result of an injury he suffered in prep school nearly 30 years ago.
Braulio Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, received over $500 million in questionable contracts from the Internal Revenue Service since he founded the company in 2012. Just before opening Strong Castle, Castillo filed for a “disability rating” with the VA, citing a foot injury he suffered playing sports at a military prep school in 1984, then using the rating to register Strong Castle as a "service-disabled, veteran-owned small business," eligible for preferential treatment in bidding competitions.
The House Oversight Committee investigated Castillo’s contracts and company and alleged Castillo’s wife "manipulated employee timesheets" to make it seem as though Strong Castle employees spent more time in the company’s offices. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was highly critical of Castillo. "Understand -- never served a day on active duty, went to a school at taxpayers' expense and had a minor injury that didn't keep him from going on to play college ball," Issa said.
“By inappropriately using a personal relationship and abusing a provision designed to help disadvantaged businesses, the IRS and Strong Castle have made a mockery of fair and open competition for government contracts,” Issa said in a statement.
But Issa’s words were nothing compared to Duckworth, the freshman congresswoman, Iraq war veteran and double amputee. After Castillo told Duckworth he still felt pain from his injuries, she proceeded to give him burns that may require disability payments.
"In fact the balls of my feet burn continuously and I feel like there is a nail being hammered into my right heel right now. So I can understand pain and suffering and how severed connection can actually cause long term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain. So I'm sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way, if also opportune for you to gain this status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts."
"You know, my right arm was essentially blown off and reattached. I spent a year in limb salvage with over a dozen surgeries over that time period, and in fact, we thought that we would lose my arm, and I'm still in danger of possibly losing my arm. I can't feel it, I can't feel my three fingers."
"My disability rating is 20 percent," she said.
Duckworth wasn't finished.
"I'm so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again to protect this great country," she said. "Shame on you, Mr. Castillo, shame on you. You may not have broken any laws...but you certainly broke the trust of this great nation. You broke the trust of veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans right now are waiting an average of 237 days for an initial disability rating. It is because people like you who are gaming the system are adding to that backlog that young men and women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress, who are missing limbs cannot get the compensation and the help that they need."
"You, who never picked up a weapon in defense of this great nation, very cynically took advantage of the system," she continued. "You broke the faith with this nation, you broke the faith with the men and women who lie in hospitals right now ....and if this nation stops funding veterans' health care and stops and calls into question why veterans deserve their benefits, it's because cases like you have poisoned the public's opinion on these programs."
"I hope that you think twice about the example that you are setting for your children," she said. "I hope that you would think twice about what you are dong to the nation, this nation's veterans who are willing to die to protect this nation. Twisting your ankle is prep school is not defending or serving this nation, Mr. Castillo."
Castillo and his attorneys deny any wrongdoing.