At a House oversight hearing Wednesday on “questionable contracting practices at IRS,” Illinois Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth hammered an IRS contractor for claiming a suspect veterans disability to get a competitive advantage for his business.
Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and double amputee eviscerated Braulio Castillo, the CEO of Strong Castle, Inc., who used an injury he sustained at a military prep school to qualify for a veterans disability, 27 years after the fact.
“I’m sorry that twisting your ankle in [prep] school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way — if not also opportune for you to gain the status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts,” Duckworth said.
According to a report on the matter House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa released Tuesday, Braulio Castillo was able to get a designation under the VA’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program for his business — as a result of the injury he sustained at U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, which he attended for one year.
Castillo went on to play football as a quarterback at San Diego City College and later played at the University of San Diego.
“Did you injure that same foot again subsequently, in the years since you twisted it in prep school?” Duckworth asked.
“Not to my recollection,” he responded.
Castillo explained that his doctor suggested he seek benefits for his injury sustained in prep school.
Duckworth continued to press.
“Do you feel that the 30 percent rating that you have for the scars and the pain in your foot is accurate to the sacrifices that you’ve made for this nation?” she asked. “That the VA decision is accurate in this case?”
“Yes, ma’am I do,” he responded.
“You know my right arm was essentially blown off and reattached. 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 am 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,” she said.
Duckworth then read from a letter Castillo sent to a government official in which he claimed he and his family “made considerable sacrifices” for their country, including that his “service-connected” disability “should serve as a testimony to that end.” The considerable hardship he claimed are “crosses I bear due to my service to our country and I would do it again to protect this great country.”
“Shame on you Mr. Castillo,” Duckworth said. “Shame on you, you may not have broken any laws, we are not sure yet, you did misrepresent to the [Small Business Administration] 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.”
“Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation, Mr. Castillo,” she concluded.
House Oversight Committee is looking into contracts Castillo’s business secured with the IRS due to his businesses designations and a friendship with a top IRS contracting official, potentially worth over $500 million.