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Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, lost her legs and the use of her right arm as a helicopter pilot in Iraq in 2004. She was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
Braulio Castillo broke his foot in a prep school injury nearly three decades ago at the U.S. Military Preparatory School, which he attended for nine months before playing football in college. He owns a technology business certified as a service-disabled, veteran-owned company eligible for government set aside contracts.
The two met at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday in an exchange neither will forget anytime soon.
For background, what brought them together was a months-long House probe into whether Castillo’s company won IRS contracts thanks, in part, to help from a top contracting official and friend inside the IRS named Greg Roseman, who pleaded the Fifth Amendment when called to testify.
While much of the hearing delved into questions about Roseman and Castillo’s friendship, lawmakers from both parties wondered aloud how a prep school injury suffered so long ago could result in Castillo’s company getting special set aside contract status from the government at a time when so many injured veterans are looking for work.
But among hours of testimony, Duckworth’s questioning of Castillo stood out.
She talked of her own struggles and those of a friend who, exposed to Agent Orange, died of leukemia. She talked of recovering from her injuries along with a young man whose leg had been blown off. And she talked about a backlog of veterans waiting more than 200 days to receive disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
At one point, Duckworth read aloud from a letter that Castillo had sent to the VA as his company sought set-aside contract status, quoting him as saying, “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.”
“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.”
You can watch the exchange here.
Mary Hoppe Says:
June 26th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Bravo to Rep Duckworth. I came of age when friends, relatives and classmates were giving their lives in Vietnam for a war the public did not support. These young men and women bravely gave their lives or limbs for their country. That Mr. Castillo was protecting our country. These brave souls and many that have followed in the service of our country can’t get good, fast healthcare or jobs. It is really a sad state of affairs, one of many injustices put on the many for the good of so few. Again I say BRAVO Rep Duckworth for being the voice of our true heros.
Mary Hoppe Says:
June 26th, 2013 at 6:04 pm
Should have proofed my comment better. Please amend to “That Mr. Castillo was protecting our country is a travesty to the true protectors.”
Michael Casselman Says:
June 27th, 2013 at 8:32 am
Shame on *her*. She was completely out of line by trying to diminish another persons disability. THAT is morally reprenhensible.
Where was her outrage at the relative rating system for the VA when she was *with* the VA a few years ago? It’s easy to point at someone and try to make a case that *your* disability inhibits your livelihood more than another persons, but that was the wrong venue.
Are there Veterans who have learned to game the system to maximize their VA benefits? Absolutely. So make the VA take a better look at these cases when doing their evaluations or when they come in for re-evaluations.
There may be plenty of reasons to take issue with Castillo… were there shenanigans or hijinks regarding his contracting status? Perhaps.
On the other hand, how about fixing the government procurement process, where if I have to buy a widget: can I run to the store and buy it for 10 bucks, or do I have to go through a [insert your choice of disadvantaged protected class here] contractor who charges 50 bucks for the same item?
However, when you start trying to stratify the ‘type’ of disability someone has, or how it was incurred, where does it stop? The VA does not (nor should it) differentiate whether a disability was gained during combat, in a war zone, in training, in garrison, or otherwise. You were injured while on the government’s dime, while serving under their laws and regulations. There are plenty of peacetime veterans who have service connected disabilities… are they ‘less deserving’ in the eyes of Ms Duckworth?
Would Ms Duckworth have made the same impassioned speach if that person’s disability was for a PTSD? Her mindset seems to indicate that “If I can’t see it, it can’t be a disability”.
If she wants to change the system, then Duckworth is in Congress and last time I looked she has the authority to bring about change to Federal statutes.
Castillo didn’t rate himself at 20 or 30 percent: the VA did it.
Castillo wasn’t the one who bestowed upon himself the status as a disabled veteran contractor: the government did.
When you point a finger at someone else, there’s a few left over pointing back at yourself.
June 28th, 2013 at 10:45 am
I get some of her points, but the way she grilled him was not in good taste. She’s upset that he used his disability to help get a contract with the gov’t, but she used her disability to help get elected. I doubt Tammy Duckwork as a non-disabled vet would have been elected to congress. She used her name recognition (she was all over USA Today and Parade Magazine as the face of Iraqi Freedom when she was injured several years back). To say one disability has no merit over another is way out of line. I served 25 years and have a partial VA disability due to my body getting banged up over the years. They aren’t combat injuries, nevertheless they are injuries that occaured during my time in serve be it in training status or otherwise. To belittle this belittles the thousands of vets who have served honorably and share the same status as I. My problem is the guy is claiming diabled vet status when he never truly served. Had he served active duty or reserve status, I would have no problem. HGe dis one year at the prep school and decided the military wasn’t for him. This is not serving. My other problem lies not with Mr. Castillo but his friend in the IRS that gave him preferential treatment. This is where the true problem lies.
June 28th, 2013 at 10:47 am
Ms. Duckworth was way out of line! Is she seeking martyrdom status? It doesn’t matter how you were injured and disabled while in the Service of our Country. And there is nothing wrong with seeking the benefits the Country has decided you are eligible for.
A. Nonymous Says:
June 28th, 2013 at 1:41 pm
You guys are clueless! Did you not read the story or watch the video? Yes, Castillo was injured while in Military Prep school BUT within a year of his injury he was playing COLLEGE FOOTBALL! How the hell can he be well enough to play college football 9 months after breaking his foot but 30 YEARS later he’s “disabled??” I call B.S.
June 28th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
You are clueless. The man used the system to get benefits he was eligible for and the Government approved of. She was extremely rude and grandstanding… you think she didn’t use her disabled vet status to get elected to Congress. Because she could…
bubba the cynic Says:
June 28th, 2013 at 10:15 pm
My memory may be mistaken but wasn’t Ms Duckworth a
VA official at one time? As a vet, I really believe the VA is broken and probably beyond repair. She was playing it up for the camera. Was Castillo gaming the system- of course. Is the system beyond repair- again of course. To see the truth, you have to watch what goes on after the cameras are turned off.
June 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am
However reprehensible Castillo’s actions were, it must be noted they were done consistent with laws approved by congress.
Duckworth is out of line and her wrath is misdirected. The vile organization to which she now belongs ought to be the target of her scorn.
‘Shame on you,’ disabled vet Duckworth grills IRS contractor – Fedline – The Federal Times Blog – federal news, government operations, agency management, pay & benefits | GovConChannel Says:
June 30th, 2013 at 11:07 pm
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July 10th, 2013 at 8:55 am
How does going to a military prep school count as military service?