Service-Connected Dissembling

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REUTERS / Yuri Gripas

Braulio Castillo on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

The welter of special rules and exemptions making one’s company eligible for government contracts has always been ripe for abuse.

Fascinating to watch Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. – a one-time UH-60 Black Hawk pilot who lost both legs to an RPG in Iraq in 2004 – train her laser rangefinder on Braulio Castillo at a Wednesday hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for an injury he suffered 20 years before hers.

Castillo had claimed he hurt his foot while at the U.S. Military Academy prep school entitled him to special consideration as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” That designation helped his company land federal contracts, including some $500 million from the Internal Revenue Service.

Let’s review the bidding, according to the committee’s report:

— Castillo attended the military prep school, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, in 1984-85. He injured his foot in an orienteering exercise.

— He has no other military service.

Notes the report:

Braulio Castillo would not have been considered a veteran had he completed his year at USMAPS without injury. Normally, a cadet is not considered a veteran until he or she graduates from West Point, enters active duty, and subsequently leaves active duty. Time spent at USMAPS and West Point is considered training, not active duty. However, if a person is injured at either school, he or she becomes a veteran due to the service-connected disability. This policy is codified with respect to service at the academies, and is extended in the Code of Federal Regulations to include prep schools.

— Despite his foot injury, he played football at the University of San Diego, where he played quarterback and linebacker. Noted the Los Angeles Times in a 1985 story:

Quarterback Braulio Castillo passed for 90 yards and one touchdown for San Diego City (1-4, 1-6). He also rushed for 70 yards and one touchdown.

— Castillo didn’t seek government help for his injured foot for 27 years, until shortly before launching his company.

This kind of behavior, alas, isn’t uncommon. But rarely is it so nakedly on display.

The military academies’ prep schools have long been a scam. The fact that one scam begat another is simply one of those follies that would delight the psyche were U.S. taxpayers not footing the bill.

And if you injured your foot while footing that bill? Tough.