WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a veteran of the Iraq War, dramatically chastised a federal contractor who claimed that a high school sports injury had rendered him a service-disabled veteran.
Speaking during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Duckworth vividly described to a committee witness, Braulio Castillo, how she lives in near constant pain after losing both of her legs during her service as a combat pilot.
Castillo cited his foot injury, suffered at a military prep school, as the basis for his IT company's application for special status as a "service-disabled veteran-owned small business." The application was granted, and his company, Strong Castle, was given preferential treatment in federal contract bids.
"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.
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.
But the high point of the exchange between Duckworth and Castillo was a letter, read by the congresswoman, in which Castillo told a government official that his foot injury was "due to my service to this great country, and I would do it again to protect this great country."
"I'm so glad that you would be willing to play football at prep school again to protect this great country," Duckworth said sarcastically.
"Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws ... but you have broken the trust of this great nation," she said.