Double-amputee veteran Tammy Duckworth rips contractor’s twisted ankle ‘disability’

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, June 27, 2013 13:41 EDT
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Campaign photograph via TammyDuckworth.com
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Appearing Wednesday to testify before a House committee, the owner of a military IT contracting company was lectured and shamed by Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), an Iraq veteran and double amputee who grilled him about a military disability claim he filed 27 years after twisting his ankle in prep school.

The recent exploits of Braulio Castillo, CEO of Strong Castle, Inc., are discussed in some detail by the House Oversight Committee’s recent investigation (PDF) of the company’s contracts and the Castillo’s alleged relationship to a top official at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The committee’s report explains that he filed a military disability claim on May 26, 2011 based upon an ankle injury he sustained playing football at a military prep school, and began receiving compensation for his injury on July 1.

As it happened, this status as an injured military veteran also made his company eligible for a whole slate of government contracts specially set aside for companies run by injured vets. He also, somehow, still managed to keep playing football in college despite this allegedly terrible injury.

“My family and I have made considerable sacrifices for our country,” he wrote to a VA examiner as part of his request for access to special contracts. “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 worth. These are crosses that I bear due to my service to our great country. I would do it again to protect this great country.”

He was approved for this special status, and Strong Castle, Inc., founded just in 2011, went on to win over $500 million in government contracts. Investigators later discovered they didn’t even have employees working in their office space.

To say that Duckworth — who lost both her legs and part of her right arm after an RPG blew her helicopter out of the sky in Iraq — seemed eager to tear into Castillo would be an understatement. Appearing before her committee on Wednesday, he endured one of the most epic shamings any federal contractor has faced in recent memory.

“Does your foot hurt?” she asked, scowling. He said yes.

“My feet hurt too,” Duckworth replied. “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,” she added.

The tongue lashing that ensued went on for nearly eight minutes as Duckworth explained to Castillo in excruciating detail why people like him are the cause of the major backlog in military disability claims.

“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. You may not have broken any laws… but you certainly broke the trust of this great nation. You broke the trust of veterans.”

She went on: “Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are waiting right now an average of 237 days for an initial disability rating, and it’s because people like you who are gaming the system are adding that backlog. Young men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress, who are missing limbs, cannot get the care that they need.”

This video is from YouTube, published Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

This video explaining the investigation into Castillo’s company is from CBS News, broadcast Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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