Tammy Duckworth2

Some of our readers may have watched it. Regardless, it is timeless and priceless. Especially in view of the shameful backlog our injured combat veterans face when applying for or trying to get disability status, benefits or medical treatment.

It is about a contractor who hurt his foot playing football in military prep school many, many years ago. Who never served on active duty, who somehow still managed to play football in college and who, decades later is claiming that his hurt ankle has rendered him a service-disabled veteran and is using that hurt ankle to get preferred treatment in government contracts as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.”.

It just so happens — oh the delicious irony — that this man, eight months ago, got the opportunity to face Iraq veteran and hero, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.),who lost both her legs and still could lose her arm from injuries she received as a combat helicopter pilot.

Duckworth asks the “disabled veteran,” “Does your foot hurt?”

He answers “yes.”

Duckworth then says, “My feet hurt too. 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.”

But I have said enough.

Watch the video.

Lead Photo of Tammy Duckworth: DOD

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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Copyright 2014 The Moderate Voice
  • slamfu

    Wow, I usually don’t watch the videos, but that was ROUGH. Mr. Castillo is an absolute, shameless, scumbag and she called him out. That was pretty awesome.

  • adelinesdad

    On the one hand, Mr. Castillo does appear to be taking advantage of the system, which is disgraceful. On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with Rep. Duckworth using her own serious disabilities to shame someone for applying for a benefit for which he appears to legally qualify. (Although his 30% designation seems highly exaggerated, as the Representative notes there actually isn’t a minimum set in the law, so that even 5% would qualify him for the benefit. Also, the injury does not have to be sustained in combat.) Worse, she goes on to blame him and “people like [him]” for the long wait that legitimately disabled veterans must wait before receiving benefits. That begs the question: how many people in line for those benefits does she consider unworthy of them? 10%, 35%, 50%? It has to be a pretty high number if they are principally to blame for the delay. Of course not many would compare to the sacrifice she has made, but that’s not the standard they are required to meet.

    I think service members should be well compensated, monetarily and otherwise, and when they suffer injuries, and especially when they are permanently disabled, they should be well cared for. But giving them special advantage over business competitors is a step too far.

  • sheknows

    Adad, I seriously doubt she would have called him out on his injury and used her own and others as examples, if the nature of his injury had TRULY been service related.

    “I think service members should be well compensated, monetarily and otherwise, and when they suffer injuries, and especially when they are permanently disabled, they should be well cared for. But giving them special advantage over business competitors is a step too far.”

    Think of it as a VA loan when you buy a house Adad. Why do you think they get special advantage?

  • adelinesdad

    sheknows,

    I don’t know what you mean by “TRULY”, but I’ll leave it to the lawyers to determine whether he shouldn’t have technically qualified for the benefit. Rep Duckworth herself concedes that he may technically qualify, but her point is that he shouldn’t have pursued the benefit, even if he did qualify. Why? It’s clear that she is pointing out that his injury is much less significant, and much less heroically incurred, than hers, which is undeniably true but irrelevant. The law seems to intentionally avoid drawing distinctions between disabilities, probably because doing so is uncomfortable and unavoidably arbitrary to some degree. So we have an expansive definition, and now we have a legislator upset that people aren’t drawing lines when the the government itself is unwilling to do so.

    As for VA loans, I’d say there’s a difference between a benefit that is financed by all taxpayers, and a special status given to a individual that gives him an advantage over other, specific individuals. There are people losing contracts because they aren’t disabled veterans, specifically because a disabled veteran was given preferential treatment, even though maybe they are recent immigrants, or disabled for other reasons preventing them from serving in the military, or because they were caring for a sick relative during their young adulthood, or maybe they served honorably but weren’t injured, none of which justifies them losing out to someone who receives preference if they could have done the job better. If every VA loan came at the direct expense of someone else receiving that loan, I wouldn’t support that either.

  • sheknows

    Adad, As for TRULY, I mean what she meant. He was injured in prep school. She wasn’t comparing injuries as you think, she was just losing her patience and questioning the legitimacy of his claim in the first place, and rightfully so. Why do you think he was sitting there? Others had serious questions about it as well, ya think?

    ” There are people losing contracts because they aren’t disabled veterans, specifically because a disabled veteran was given preferential treatment, even though maybe they are recent immigrants, or disabled for other reasons preventing them from serving in the military, or because they were caring for a sick relative during their young adulthood, or maybe they served honorably but weren’t injured, none of which justifies them losing out to someone who receives preference if they could have done the job better”.

    I disagree. Though sadly, some people didn’t or couldn’t qualify for service the fact remains, this is compensation to those who could and did serve and as a result became disabled.
    Maybe that’s not fair to you, but that’s just something our government does to help “level the playing field” for our disabled vets once back in the civilian world. Too bad you have a problem with that.

  • adelinesdad

    Do you mean “level the playing field” in the sense that they are disabled and therefore warrant extra help, or in the sense that they gave up some of their life to serve? If it’s the former, the benefit would be extended to all disabled people, since they are all equally disadvantaged. if it’s the latter, the benefit would be extended to all veterans, since they all gave up time. The fact that it is not suggests that it really a well-intended reward, but the burden of rewards (or even efforts to level the playing field, for that matter) should be shared by everyone who benefits (all taxpayers) and not put on individual, unlucky competitors so the rest of us can feel good about ourselves. I’m not saying I’m going to go protest about it, but as a matter of principle I wouldn’t support it.

    As for what she truly meant, what often happens in these sorts of discussions is that we project what we want to hear onto someone we want to agree with. I’m prone to this like everyone. If you look at what she actually said, she is clearly comparing her injuries and experience with his, and then goes on to suggest there are many others like him. Regardless of your opinion of Mr. Castillo, I think intellectual honestly requires that if we don’t like that argument, we say so, instead of pretending she didn’t make it.

  • sheknows

    Well, Adad, my feeling is that she believes he is committing a type of fraud, hence the suggestion that there are many others like him. My feeling is also that he is sitting there because there IS a question of his entitlement.

    “Do you mean “level the playing field” in the sense that they are disabled and therefore warrant extra help, or in the sense that they gave up some of their life to serve? 1.) If it’s the former, the benefit would be extended to all disabled people, since they are all equally disadvantaged. 2) if it’s the latter, the benefit would be extended to all veterans, since they all gave up time.”

    To number 1. No. The government is not and should not be extending benefits to ALL disabled people, only the ones who became disabled as a result of their service to this country. See the distinction?
    To number 2. No. Giving up time is not giving up health. I guess I don’t know how you could even compare the two.

  • sheknows

    Edit to add…as for the government extending benefits to all disabled people, I take that back. They do. SSDI. But if service related , then they can also get a great deal if they want to start a business. 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks for “manning the phones,” Sheknows.

    Here is the entire Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report on this whole shameful episode.

    I will try to see if there has been any further fall-out from or about this man’s “stolen valor” (my opinion) actions.

  • slamfu

    I don’t know what you mean by “TRULY”, but I’ll leave it to the lawyers to determine whether he shouldn’t have technically qualified for the benefit.

    Man, he injured his ankle playing high school ball. If that isn’t a categorically absurd abuse of the system perhaps you can give me an example of what you would consider worthy of a scathing rebuke from someone who lost limbs serving their country. The fact this guy got up there and actually defended his position was shameless. I’m not even a veteran and that made my blood boil.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I’m not even a veteran and that made my blood boil.

    Thanks, slamfu.

    I won’t even try to describe how I feel.

  • adelinesdad

    Since everyone’s blood is boiling, let me reiterate what I said in my first sentence, which is that what Mr. Castillo is doing is disgraceful. Yes, whether what he did was legal or not is indeed in question, which as I mentioned is a matter to be resolved by the legal system. My emphasis has been on Rep. Duckworth’s argument since that is where our disagreement lies. Can we agree that it’s possible for them both to be in the wrong? In politics, that happens more often than not, in my view.

    sheknows: “she believes he is committing a type of fraud, hence the suggestion that there are many others like him.”

    And I think the people waiting for the benefit deserve to know which of them she believes should not qualify for the benefit (regardless of whether they legally qualify), so that they can step out of line and avoid being shamed. What is her criteria that would exclude a significant number and yet still give the benefit to those who truly deserve it?

    “No. The government is not and should not be extending benefits to ALL disabled people, only the ones who became disabled as a result of their service to this country. See the distinction?”

    Yes, the distinction is that the latter is a form of reward, or honor, or payment for sacrifice, however you want to describe it. It is not “leveling the playing field” since the entire point is to unlevel the playing field to give them preferential treatment. But however we describe it, the point remains: in my view individuals should not be given special status that puts other specific individuals at a disadvantage. I’m all for giving them benefits when the cost is born by all who benefit from their sacrifice, whether it be high salaries and retirement benefits, excellent health care, VA loans, education benefits, etc.

    “To number 2. No. Giving up time is not giving up health.”

    I was attempting to understand your view that the benefit is leveling the playing field by noting that those who serve give up time that they could be building their business. In that sense, this benefit could be seen as making up for that sacrifice, but in that case it would apply to all veterans. If that wasn’t what you were referring to, that’s fine.

  • SteveK

    Thanks Dorian, sheknows, and slamfu.

    It seems there’s always someone trying to muddy the waters with “yeah, buts” and “who really knows” and “how dare them democrats” when someone on the right is caught playing the system.

    And it’s often those same people who believe that minimum wage, extended unemployment, and food stamps for those TRULY in need is ripping off the government.

    Edit to add: My jaw dropped when Ms. Duckworth’s thanked the chair for allowing to go over her time and the Chairman, Darrell Issa of all people, said it was O.K. and thanked her… I think a flying pig has been sighted!

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thank you, Steve

  • adelinesdad

    I’m proud to fly the “yeah, but” banner as long as the world is not black and white. Truth, like all elements of nature, including muddy water, rarely exists in straight, simple lines. The infinite complexity of it is what gives it beauty and makes it worth studying.

    BTW, I don’t know how partisanship comes into this. Issa, who apparently was heading up this hearing and supported Duckworth in this matter, is a Republican. And I have no idea what party Mr. Castillo belongs to.

  • sheknows

    “Yes, the distinction is that the latter is a form of reward, or honor, or payment for sacrifice, however you want to describe it. It is not “leveling the playing field” since the entire point is to unlevel the playing field to give them preferential treatment.”

    Uh…..the playing field is leveled because they are LOWER in the field to BEGIN with because of their disability….wouldn’t you agree? The government steps in to assist them financially and that brings them up to the level of a fully healthy individual who did not suffer injury. SO according to you, the government should not do anything more for a service related disabled individual than provide unlimited hospitalization at the VA Med centers, and SSDI. So if he wants to start a business and only has well, a tiny bit of money from his VERY generous $1200 a mo disability to start a business, as opposed to someone who makes oh, $50-60k a yr. you say….TOUGH!
    Fortunately, the government doesn’t agree with you!!

  • adelinesdad

    “the playing field is leveled because they are LOWER in the field to BEGIN with because of their disability….wouldn’t you agree?”

    Generally, yes, though arguably a disabled person who is capable and resilient enough to start/own a business that is competing for government contracts probably isn’t in great need of additional help beyond what other disabled veterans should get, nor do I see that the disability necessarily puts their business at a disadvantage. But in any case, as I said before, if that’s the purpose then logically that benefit should be extended to all disabled people, since they are all disadvantaged in similar ways. But you’ve already dismissed that argument so we’re going in circles.

    Also, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service-Disabled_Veteran-Owned_Small_Business, the benefit was established with the goal of awarding 3% of all federal contracts to service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses. I wouldn’t expect that they make up 3% of the total population so therefore the goal is not a level playing field.

    “SO according to you, the government should not do anything more for a service related disabled individual than provide unlimited hospitalization at the VA Med centers, and SSDI…. Fortunately, the government doesn’t agree with you!!”

    Fortunately, I don’t agree with that either, as I think I’ve made clear. I said I don’t support this specific benefit, yes, but of course that doesn’t imply I don’t support other benefits. I specifically listed some of the other benefits I DO/WOULD support: “I’m all for giving them benefits when the cost is born by all who benefit from their sacrifice, whether it be high salaries and retirement benefits, excellent health care, VA loans, education benefits, etc.”

  • SteveK

    A little more background is available from the Federal Times – IRS scandal exposes small-biz pass-throughs

    […]

    Investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee uncovered potential contract steering, false statements and questions about how a decades-old old military prep school foot injury by the company’s owner, Braulio Castillo, enabled Strong Castle to win special status as a service-disabled, veteran-owned contractor.

    While the House found up to $500 million in potential contracts to the company after Castillo purchased it in January 2012, IRS deputy commissioner Beth Tucker told lawmakers at a June 26 hearing that Strong Castle “has not received anywhere near that amount of money.”

    Referring to one blanket purchase agreement worth up to $267 million to provide software maintenance and services, she said 98 percent of the value of the contract, if awarded, would “flow to IBM.” Still, she said Strong Castle provided a critical program management and logistics role.

    Castillo agreed. He said his company competed for blanket purchase order deals, but it ultimately received about $50 million in IRS orders, of which $49 million went to “large business providers.”

    […]

    Firm blasted for veteran status

    Meanwhile, much of the public scrutiny on Strong Castle remains not on SBA, but on how the Veterans Affairs Department came to award the company status as a service-disabled, veteran-owned business.

    Castillo filed a claim with VA seeking compensation for a service-related disability 27 years after his prep school injury, but around the same time he purchased a government contracting company, committee investigators found.

    The report said Castillo first told committee investigators he injured his foot playing football in fall 1984 during his single year as a student at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, but later he said it was an injury he got during a military school exercise, which he called orienteering.

    […]

    The comments section in the above link pretty well sums up what most, though seemingly not all, feel about this gentleman’s actions and morals (or lack thereof)

    It is all a fraud, what is also being forgotten here is that Castillo’s company (Strongcastle) hooked up with IBM so that a 267 million dollar contract, IBM would get the bulk. IBM couldn’t get the contract by their selves so they partnered with a fraudulent Va service related injury status firm that got preferential treatment to the contract which by them selves couldn’t not fulfill the contract obligations as a small veteran owned business…so in the long run IBM who didn’t qualify on the small business set aside got the contract through in my estimate fraudulent means and then probably gave Castillo’s company a couple million to push some papers to look like they were working on the contract. So not only is this a disrespectful pitiful disgusting view of theirs of what a veteran means….but also an affront to all law abiding good citizens paying taxes to fund their disgusting ethics running business. There is nothing good about this and is actually almost just as if they were literally spitting in our faces in disrespect because they are smarter and without morale’s than us to use cracks in the system for financial gain….but hey its just business right…no harm…B.S. pure unadulterated BS

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Thanks for the additional info, Steve.