Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., angrily chastised an IRS contractor for using an old military prep school injury to claim veterans’ disability status.
Braulio Castillo, CEO of Strong Castle Inc., was in the hot seat yesterday after House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a report stating that the IRS had awarded Castillo’s company more than $500 million in contracts due to his friendly relationship with a high-ranking IRS official, Politico reports.
According to Chicagoist, Castillo is also accused of using an ankle injury he sustained at the U.S Military Academy Preparatory School to claim disability status with the VA and register Strong Castle as to “service-disabled veteran-owned small business” in order to get preferential treatment in bidding for IRS contracts.
Castillo received a 30 percent disability rating by the VA and receives a monthly check, according to CBSNews.com.
All of this didn’t sit well with Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee. In a hearing on Wednesday, Duckworth grilled Castillo after the CEO’s ankle injury came to light.
"My feet hurt too," said Duckworth. "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 severed 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.”
Duckworth, who has a 20 percent disability rating for her injuries suffered in Iraq, pulled no punches as she continued to publicly blast Castillo for exaggerating his injury.
“You know, my right arm was essentially blown off and reattached,” Duckworth said. “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."
Duckworth took Castillo to task for cynically manipulating the system to his advantage. Castillo played football in college after his injury, and never saw active duty.
"Shame on you, Mr. Castillo, shame on you,” Duckworth said. “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."
As the Washington Times reports, Tammy Duckworth served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, losing both of her legs and seriously injuring her right arm during combat.