Last week, congress held the confirmation hearing of Representative Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor.
Throughout the process of administration appointments, leaders in the disability community have lobbied for disability representation. While, with the list of appointments so far, the disability community has not received appointments for which it is hoping, the community still works to earn commitments to represent disability concerns from prospective cabinet members. Appointment hearings are one avenue to receive the commitments.
At the appointment hearing on Friday, January 9, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa said the national unemployment rate of people with disabilities (according to the latest statistics -- 63 percent), is “true blot on the American character.” Harkin then asked Solis what the Labor Department could do to address the unemployment problem. Evidently, Solis said she would "focus on programs to help military veterans returning from combat who suffered injuries." While the unemployment rate of people with disabilities goes much deeper than veterans with disabilities, and the issue has been around for much longer than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm glad Harkin raised the question and I am glad disability is on the radar of the Labor Department.
Let's hope Harkin and other legislators continue to push on disability, including at the confirmation hearing for the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, on Tuesday, January 13th.