Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tammy Duckworth Blasts Braulio Castillo For Gaming Veterans Benefits System

Okay, so Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is a Democrat from Illinois, but she also happens to be a military veteran who lost both her legs (and might lose her arm) serving with the National Guard in Iraq. And she's very passionate about military veterans issues. So when it came to light that Braulio Castillo, CEO of  the computer services company Strong Castle, Inc was awarded million dollar contracts from the IRS reserved specifically for businesses owned by service-disabled vets, she (and others) balked. You see, Braulio Castillo hurt his ankle years ago while playing football at a military prep school that he attended prior to college. That's it. He continued to play football in college but has never served in the military, and yet he was given service-disabled designation because of his ankle injury. A friend at the IRS allegedly helped secure those contracts. Unfair? You bet.

During a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Duckworth layed into Castillo for essentially gaming the system, and taking away work from those who rightfully deserve it. That video (below) has gone viral.

"I'm so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again 'to protect this great country." "Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws, we're not sure yet ... but you certainly broke the trust of this 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 [of] 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."
Somehow Castillo received a disability rating of 30 percent for his ankle injury in prep school, while Duckworth received 20 percent for her severely injured arm. When asked if Castillo believed his rating was accurate he replied, yes. Duckworth's response:

"You know, my right arm was essentially blown off and re-attached." "I spent a year in limb salvage with over a dozen surgeries over that time period and, in fact, we thought 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 for that arm is 20 percent." [snip]
"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 [the one] who played through the pain, Mr. Castillo, you did not. You took advantage of the system. You described this status just today, [saying] 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 in [San Antonio], you broke the faith with them. And if this nation stops funding veterans' health care, and stops.. and calls into question why veterans deserve their benefits. its because cases like you have poisooned the publics's opinions on these programmes."  [snip]
"Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation, Mr. Castillo." 
Brava, Ms Duckworth!

More info about Castillo, including the fact that he claims in his bio on his website that he served in the military.

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