Have you ever encountered a business that has the words "woman-owned business" on the masthead, but when you walk in it's really being run by a bunch of men? That's because woman-owned businesses receive preferences when bidding on government contracts. The same is true for disabled veterans and other disadvantaged groups. The idea is noble, but the reality often isn't.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth faced off with a witness during a hearing on outside contractors this week. The witness, Braulio Castillo, had applied for status as a disabled veteran in order to make himself eligible for preferred government contracts. She used her time with him to send a strong message to anyone who thinks they can game the system the way Castillo did.
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.
It's bad enough to read in print, but when you watch her deliver those lines, she does it with such precision and subtlety that Castillo doesn't really even know what just hit him. At the end, she let go:
"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.
Brava, Rep. Duckworth.