Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth thinks that the VA has its head up its butt again. And Duckworth knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wounded Iraq War veteran, who once served as the Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs,
In 2004, Duckworth deployed to Iraq as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom
On November 12, 2004 Duckworth was badly wounded when her helicopter was hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). Duckworth lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion.
Duckworth has been there and done that. When she speaks on veterans issues, veterans listen.
Duckworth first came to the nation’s attention while she was recovering from her wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
She quickly became an advocate for her fellow soldiers and testified before Congress about caring for our Veterans and wounded warriors.
Duckworth (D-IL 8th District), who represents a suburban Chicago district, stepped into the media spotlight again recently, when she confronting an IRS contractor during a house committee hearing about a government program designed to aid veteran business owners.
The video of her chewing out Braulio Castillo has gone viral. Castillo is the government contractor who has been gaming the VA system to get preferred treatment in government contracts,
Duckworth slammed the VA for granting Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) status to a company owned by Braulio Castillo, who sprained his ankle while playing football for the US Military Academy Prep School when he was a teenager.
The Military Academy Prep School is an “alternate route to get acceptance to attend West Point” for those who don’t have the high school grades needed to qualify for appointment to West Point.
Castillo hurt his foot playing football in Military Academy Prep School at Fort Monmouth, but since Military Academy Prep School “Students do not incur any additional service obligation as a result of attendance at USMAPS”, Castillo never actually served in the military.
But Castillo is sleazy enough to claim Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business status, which has gained his company $500 million in IRS contracts; contracts that should have gone to companies owned by wounded veterans.
That’s what Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) status is all about; helping disabled veterans.
During the hearing, Duckworth told Castillo that his actions broke the trust of the nation and took advantage of the system.
Duckworth said, “Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you, Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation.”
“I know so many veterans who are waiting and waiting and waiting for their benefits, and can’t get through the system because the system is clogged with cases like this gentleman’s. He never even wore the uniform or picked up a weapon.”
“We have these great programs that are meant to help veterans, He gamed the system at the expense of other folks who legitimately could have benefitted from it.”
She also pointed out that Iraq and Afghan War veterans are waiting an average of 267 days for the VA to process their disability claims for Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other serious wounds.
But Castillo claims Service-Disabled for a football injury, and somehow the VA thinks it is okay.
Castillo is the owner of Strong Castle, Inc. which was previously known as Signet Computers, Incorporated. Perhaps he ought to change the company’s name again to Weak Morals, Inc. or Sleazy Ethics, Inc.
To make matters worse, the Strong Castle website reports that on “September 24, 2013 – After a thorough review, the Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed that Strong Castle, Inc. is in compliance with federal regulations and will remain a fully verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB).”
Tammy Duckworth is absolutely right; the Department of Veterans Affairs is an absolute mess. Instead of dealing with the backlog of claims from wounded veterans, the VA is wasting its time justifying the bogus status it granted Castillo’s company.