Why Thomas Perez would make a good labor secretary

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By Julie Beckett

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As a young girl, my daughter Katie inspired President Reagan to reform the Medicaid system to allow home-based care.

As a young woman, she became a tireless advocate who continued to fight for expanded opportunities for community-based

independent living and employment for people with disabilities.

If she were still with us, I know she would be pleased that President Obama has

nominated Thomas Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, he would take the reins of the Department at a time when the unemployment rate among people with disabilities is nearly 8 in 10. This one shocking and unacceptable number alone confirms the need for strong leadership to address the challenge of increasing the number of people with disabilities in the labor force.

And that is why Tom Perez should be confirmed — he has a proven record of leading on disability issues. As the head of the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, Perez has worked constructively with states like Virginia and North Carolina to fulfill their obligation under the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which calls for states to make Medicaid long-term care services available to people in home and community-based settings, not just nursing homes and other institutions.

Like my daughter, Tom Perez understands that living in the community is a first step toward equal opportunity. And he also understands that employment is the next frontier in the struggle.

Before she unexpectedly passed away last year, Katie had been working toward her teaching degree. But it is not easy to find a job and our federal programs don’t always encourage work the way they should.

I want to see people like my daughter Katie, people who might have a disability but want to live and work in the community, get an opportunity to pursue the American dream. That’s why I am supporting Perez’s confirmation to be the next Secretary of Labor, and that is why I am urging Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin of Iowa to swiftly approve his nomination.

l Julie Beckett of Cedar Rapids convinced Tom Tauke, a Republican congressman from Dubuque, to sponsor legislation known as the “Katie Beckett waiver,” which made in-home and community health care part of Medicaid policy nearly three decades ago. President Ronald Reagan cited the Becketts’ situation as an example of unreasonable Medicaid regulations. Comments: waivermom@earthlink.net

 

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