And the Earth rotates again and yet another IRS scandal falls from the heavens. This one involves, according to the Washington Examiner, the questionable awarding of contracts the panel said are worth $500 million to a man with whom Gregory Roseman, a deputy director in the IRS’ procurement office has a personal relationship.
It gets better folks, the man, Braulio Castillo, claimed a service-connected disability, from a football injury that happened while he was in prep school.
This opening blog in the series focuses squarely on the interrogation by Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) an Iraq war veteran. What she doesn’t mention today is that she is a double amputee. Stay tuned for more in this series.
Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), an Iraq veteran, ate the federal contractor Braulio Castillo for breakfast! In her opening statement, Representative Duckworth said the following:
“You know this hearing is very troubling to me because this case really shows how things can go wrong. I want to support our small business owners as much as possible. I want these set-asides to be successful. But I am absolutely appalled by the advantages that have been taken of the system.”
Her questions included:
Duckworth: Your foot hurt? Your left foot hurt?
Castillo: Yes ma’am.
Duckworth: “My feet hurt too. In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there’s a nail being hammered into my heel right now. So I can understand pain and suffering, and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain. 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. I also understand why something can take years to manifest themselves from when you hurt them. In fact, I have a dear, dear friend who sprayed Agent Orange out of his Hui in Vietnam who it took 40 years for the Leukemia to actually manifest itself and he died six months later. So I can see how military service, while at the time you seem very healthy could 40 years later result in devastating injury.”
Duckworth zings with: Did you injure your left foot again after prep school?
To which Castillo responds: I’m not sure I understand the question.
Duckworth: You played football in college, correct?
Castillo: Yes ma’am.
Duckworth: As a quarterback.
Castillo: Yes ma’am I did.
Duckworth: Did you injure that same foot again subsequently in the years since you twisted it in prep school?
Castillo: Not to my recollection.
Duckworth: Do you view that the 30% rating that you have for the scars and the pain in your foot is accurate to the sacrifices that you’ve made for this nation? That the VA decision is correct in your case?
Castillo: Yes ma’am I do.
Duckworth: 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. In fact we thought we would lose my arm and in fact 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 for that arm is 20%.
The peak of the exchange between Duckworth and Castillo was a letter, read by the congresswoman, which states in part:
“My family and I have made considerable sacrifices for our country. My service-connected disability status should serve as a testimony to that end. I can’t play with my kids because I can’t walk without pain. I take twice daily pain medication so I can work a normal day’s work. These are crosses that I bear due to my service to our great country. And I would do it again to protect this great country.”
She continues sarcastically: “I’m so glad that you would be willing to play football at prep school again to protect this great country.”
There is no questioning Rep. Duckworth’s anger in her concluding statements:
“Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws, we aren’t sure yet. You misrepresented to the SBA. But you have broken the trust of this great nation. You have broken the trust of veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans right now are waiting an average of 237 days for an initial disability rating. And it is because people like you who are gaming the system are adding to that backlog so 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. And I’m sure you played through the pain of that foot all through college. Let me tell you something. I recovered with a young man, a Navy corpsman who while he was running into an ambush where his Marines were hurt had his leg knocked off with an RPG. He put a tourniquet on himself and crawled forward. He is who played through the pain Mr. Castillo, you did not.
You took advantage of the system. You described the status just today that other companies were using these special statuses as competitive weapons against you. You who never picked up a weapon in defense of this great nation, very cynically took advantage of the system. You broke the faith with this nation. You broke the faith with the men and women who lie in hospitals right now at Walter Reed, in Bethesda, at Brook Army Medical Center. You broke the faith. 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’re setting for your children. I hope that you think twice about what you are doing to this nation’s veterans who are willing to die to protect this nation. Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation Mr. Castillo.”
She then thanks Chairman Issa for indulging her in exceeding her time to which he says “the time was well spent.”