Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) lost both legs and damaged her arm while serving in Iraq with the National Guard.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the Illinois congresswoman has very, very little patience for people who take advantage of programs intended for our nation’s wounded veterans.
Case in point: Rep. Duckworth’s handling of Braulio Castillo, a contractor who leveraged his connections with IRS officials to score contracts set aside for the businesses of service-disabled veterans.
Castillo testified Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on his having received a service-disabled designation because “he injured his ankle while attending a military prep school before going to college,” the Washington Examiner notes.
Rep. Duckworth didn't pull her punches.
“I’m so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again ‘to protect this great country,’” Duckworth said.
“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,” she added.
She asked the contractor whether he felt his rating of 30 percent was accurate. Castillo said he felt the government’s rating of his so-called disability was indeed accurate (probably not a wise move for a guy talking to a woman who had both of her legs blown off in Iraq).
“You know, my right arm was essentially blown off and re-attached,” Duckworth said. “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.”
Rep. Duckworth reminded Castillo that he went on to play football at University of San Diego despite his supposed disability.
“I recovered with a young man, a Navy corpsman, who — while he was running through an ambush where his Marines were hurt — had his leg knocked off with an RPG,” she said.
“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 companyies were using these special statuses as ‘competitive weapons’ against you — you, who never took up a weapon in defense of this great nation very cynically took advantage of this 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,” she added.
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