POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 29, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 6:42 a.m. HST, Jun 29, 2013
A video showing U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran formerly of Hawaii who lost both her legs in combat, shaming an Internal Revenue Service contractor at a congressional hearing is going viral.
Duckworth mocked Strong Castle CEO Braulio Castillo's application for veterans benefits, which allowed him to promote his firm as a small business operated by a disabled veteran.
Duckworth noted that Castillo sustained a foot injury while playing football at a military prep school. Castillo went on to play football at the University of San Diego and, more than 20 years later, applied for veterans disability payments.
"My feet hurt, too," Duckworth said. "In fact, the balls of my feet hurt continuously. So I can understand and … I'm so sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come to hurt you in such a painful way."
Duckworth asked Castillo how severe his injury was rated by the VA. After Castillo said it was rated at 30 percent, Duckworth pointed to her own arm.
"My right arm was essentially blown off and reattached … and I'm still in danger of losing my arm. I can't feel my arm. My disability rating for that arm is 20 percent," Duckworth said.
"I don't set the ratings," Castillo replied.
The video was posted by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darryl Issa, R-Calif., after Wednesday's hearing. The exchange was featured in a CBS News story, and started to go viral Thursday after it was featured on several websites.
The House committee is investigating government contracts secured by Strong Castle Inc. and whether a friendship between IRS official Gregory Roseman and Castillo was a factor in the company's ability to win such large contracts with the IRS. The computer services company has as much as $500 million in contracts with the tax agency.
Roseman said he was advised by his lawyer to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
Beth Tucker, the agency's deputy commissioner for operations support, told lawmakers that the IRS was working to sever its ties with Strong Castle and has referred its contracts with the company to the Treasury's inspector general for tax administration for further investigation.
Tucker said she also was troubled by other aspects of Strong Castle's work with the IRS, including allegations that Castillo took advantage of programs in the Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs to move to the front of the line for IRS contracts.
"Let me be clear, the information that we've seen about the personal relationship with Mr. Roseman and Mr. Castillo is inappropriate," Tucker said.
Strong Castle, which was founded just two years ago, scooped up more than a dozen contracts with the IRS in 2012 for computer services potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Castillo testified Wednesday that his company's dealings with the IRS were lawful and contributed "to the IRS' mission."