U.S. Sen. Steve Daines pushed ahead Wednesday with an attempt to cut retirement benefits to Indian Health Service pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber, who sexually assaulted Blackfeet children.
The Republican senator for Montana questioned Assistant Surgeon General Michael D. Weahkee on Wednesday about Indian Health Service’s handling of reports against Weber.
The questions came as the assistant surgeon general appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to make his case for the IHS 2020 budget. After the hearing Daines introduced a bill to cut off retirement benefits for federal workers convicted of on-the-job child sexual assault.
“Despite numerous reported suspicions of Weber’s inappropriate behavior, IHS turned a blind eye and enabled Weber to continue his unspeakable actions for years,” Daines said. “IHS failed to protect the children they were entrusted to care for. Accountability must be demanded.”
In January, Weber was convicted by a U.S. District Court in Great Falls of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and two counts of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, all felonies. The charges stem from his 1993 to 1995 employment as an Indian Health Service pediatrician on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Working in Browning, Weber engaged in sex with a boy younger than 12 and attempted to have sex with another boy younger than 16, according to prosecutors.
He was sentenced to prison for 18 years and four months, and fined $200,000 by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Weber faces 10 more charges stemming from alleged child sexual encounters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Pine Ridge accusations span 13 years occurring after Weber’s time in Montana.
Now retired, the pediatrician receives more than $100,000 a year in retirement benefits. Daines has asked IHS to cut off Weber’s benefits, which the agency has said would be difficult.
Weahkee told the Appropriations Committee the health service is weighing its options concerning Weber’s pension.
“I have personally submitted a letter requesting Dr. Weber’s retirement pay be discontinued and we are working through the legal counsel, whether or not we have the authority to do that,” Weahkee said. “Dialogue continues as we evaluate whether or not we have current authority or we’re going to need to seek legislative support to make those changes.”
The Daines bill denying benefits to federal employees convicted of child sexual abuse would apply to future offenses committed by any federal worker. As Weahkee indicated in his testimony Wednesday, denying benefits retroactively for child sexual abuse is legally difficult.
“It’s shocking that a government employee can still receive a pension after being convicted of sexually abusing children,” Daines said. "That is unacceptable, which is why I’m going to be taking action introducing that bill today to fix this very flawed system.”
In February, the Trump administration announced that it was creating a task force to investigate how Weber managed to sexually assault children within IHS.