[Transcript below care of Shaker DesertRose.]
REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know, this hearing is very troubling to me because this case really shows how things can go wrong. I want to support our small business owners as much as possible, I want these set–asides to be successful, but I am absolutely appalled by the advantages that have been taken of this system.Why is Darrell Issa calling Tammy Duckworth "the young lady"? Shut up, Darrell Issa. She is a congresswoman. And you are a jerk.
Mr. Flohr, I know you cannot discuss Mr. Castillo's case, because you would need his permission to discuss his particular case; that's why you could not answer the question earlier. My understanding also is that the VA, VBA specifically, is bound by legislation that says a certain condition has a certain disability rating. For example, a below-knee amputation is 40%, it just is, correct?
MR. FLOHR: That is correct, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: So it seems like there is an opportunity here for some legislative fixes to this system. Mr. Chodos, is it true that any rating, even if it is just 5%, would qualify someone for a service-connected disability owned business?
MR. CHODOS: So long as they qualify under the VA's rules for service-connected disability, that is adequate for the self-certification.
REP. DUCKWORTH: Thank you. Mr. Castillo, how are you? Thank you—thank you for being here today.
MR. CASTILLO: I am not well, but you're welcome.
REP. DUCKWORTH: All right, so, your foot hurt, your left foot?
MR. CASTILLO: Yes, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: It hurts. Yeah, my feet hurt too. In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there is a nail being hammered into my right heel right now, so I can understand pain and suffering and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain. So 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 as you were trying to compete for contracts. I also understand why, you know, something can take years to manifest themselves [sic] from when you hurt them. In fact, I have a dear, dear friend who sprayed Agent Orange out of his Huey in Vietnam, who, it took forty years, forty years, for the leukemia to actually manifest itself, and he died six months later, so I can see how military service, while at the time you seem very healthy, could forty years later result in devastating injury. Can you tell me if you hurt your left foot again during your football career, subsequently to twisting it in high school?
MR. CASTILLO: Ma'am, I don't understand the high school comment.
REP. DARRELL ISSA: The young lady—prep school—post high school.
MR. CASTILLO: I apologize—I'm not—
REP. DUCKWORTH: Post high school, okay post high school, prep school, before college, prep school. Did you injure your left foot again after prep school?
MR. CASTILLO: Um, I'm not sure I understand the question, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: You played football in college, correct?
MR. CASTILLO: Yes, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: As a quarterback?
MR. CASTILLO: Yes, ma'am. I did.
REP. DUCKWORTH: Did you hurt, did you injure that same foot again subsequently in the years since you twisted it in prep school?
MR. CASTILLO: Not to my recollection, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: Not to your recollection, okay. Why didn't you, Mr. Castillo, tell the VA that your doctor's note to them was inaccurate when you knew that it was?
MR. CASTILLO: I don't feel that it's inaccurate, ma'am.
REP. DUCKWORTH: Okay.
MR. CASTILLO: Would you like me to address that?
REP. DUCKWORTH: Yep, go ahead.
MR. CASTILLO: Yes, ma'am, so, one of my doctors that submitted letters so, as part of the injury you have to establish that it's chronic and reoccurring [sic], so when I returned home to San Diego, my doctor from San Diego had also returned—had said that he had treated me for the foot injury that I suffered on active duty. When I moved to Las Vegas, a couple years later, that doctor submitted that he continued to treat me for a left broken foot injury. Finally, when I moved to Virginia, I went to a doctor and that it continued to hurt, and he established that—so Dr. Sam Wilson, who ironically was also stationed at Monmouth—
REP. DUCKWORTH: I have to cut you off, because I'm running out of time. I'm sorry.
MR. CASTILLO: So, I just want to—just, so, let me finish—so, in talking to Dr. Wilson who himself is a disabled veteran, and very familiar with Fort Monmouth in that his son had went there as well and played football, he actually was the one that talked to me about, "Hey this may be something that is connected." And I believe I told him that I was first—[crosstalk]
REP. DUCKWORTH: So let me—let me, I have to cut you off. I have to cut you off. Now, this is not an argument, I'm talking, I'm up here. Let me ask you this. Do you feel the 30% 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? That the VA decision is accurate in your case?
MR. CASTILLO: Yes ma'am, I do.
REP. DUCKWORTH: 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'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%.
In your letter to a government official, I think it's the SVA, attention Gina Mu (ph), you said, "My family and I have made considerable sacrifices for our country. My service-connected disability status should serve as a testimony to that end. I can't play with my kids because I can't walk without pain. I take twice daily pain medication so I can work a normal day's worth. These are crosses—these are crosses—that I bear due to my service to our 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 in prep school again to protect this great country. Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws. We're not sure yet; you did misrepresent to the SBA, 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. And I'm sure that you played through the pain of that foot all through college.
Well, let me tell you something. I recovered with a young man, a Navy corpsman, who, while he was running into a [sic] ambush where his Marines were hurt, had his leg knocked off with an RPG. He put a tourniquet on himself and crawled forward. He is who played through the pain, Mr. Castillo. You did not. You took advantage of the system. You described these statuses, just today, that other companies were using these special statuses as competitive weapons against you.
You, who never picked up a weapon in defense of this great nation, very cynically took advantage of the 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 Brooke Army Medical Center in (?), you broke the faith with them. And if this nation stops funding veterans' health care and stops, and calls into question why veterans deserve their benefits, it is because cases like you have poisoned the public's opinion on these programs.
I hope that you think twice about the example that you are setting for your children. I hope that you think twice about what you are doing to the nation, to this nation's veterans, who are willing to die to protect this nation. Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation, Mr. Castillo.
Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry, you've been very indulgent. I yield back.
REP. ISSA: I thank the young lady, and the time was well spent.
[H/T to Shaker zmayhem. My profound gratitude to Shaker DesertRose for providing the transcript.]