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Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois had harsh words Wednesday for a witness appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, saying he had "broken the trust of this great nation" for claiming that a twisted ankle he suffered playing football in military prep school was connected to military service that he never had.
Braulio Castillo gained preferential treatment as a federal contractor for his IT company as a "service-disabled veteran-owned small business."
Over a six-month period in 2012, Strong Castle won contracts with the Internal Revenue Service worth as much as $500 million. Wednesday's hearing followed a damning report that detailed how a senior IRS agent helped Castillo win the government business. The IRS agent in question, Greg Roseman, was dismissed from the hearing after he exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Duckworth lost the lower parts of both legs and partial use of her right arm, which was blown off and reattached, after the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004.
"Does your foot hurt?" Duckworth asked Castillo, who answered yes.
"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 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," she added.
She asked Castillo, as you can see in the video here, if he had reinjured his foot when he subsequently played college football as a quarterback. At first he said he didn't understand the question, but finally said he had not hurt the foot again.
The congresswoman then read from a letter in which Castillo told a government official that the restrictions his foot injury causes and the pain he bears from it were "crosses due to my service to this great country, and I would do it again to protect this great country." Piercing him with her eyes, Duckworth said:
"I'm so glad that you would be willing to play football at prep school again to protect this great country. 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. 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. [...] You who never picked up a weapon in defense of this great nation very cynically took advantage of this system."
Arrow. Zing. Bullseye, Congresswoman.
Now, if we could just get some hearings with similar skewering of far larger contractors whose greed and cynicism make Castillo's look like chicken feed.
Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM PDT.