October 6, 2022

Trump’s director of Indian health services appointee just found himself in a heap of trouble

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Donald Trump’s pattern of treating Native Americans poorly, ignoring their concerns and even insulting their heritage apparently continues as his long-awaited nominee to head the troubled Indian Health Services is now in trouble himself for falsifying his experience. 


Trump nominated Robert Weaver, a member of the Quapaw Tribe, to become the first permanent director in more than two years of the agency that provides medical and public health services to members of American tribes and Alaska native people, with an annual budget of about $3.8 billion.

“Investigative reporting by the Wall Street Journal has uncovered that Weaver seriously inflated his resume with what appear to be outright fabrications,” reports Shareblue, “even as Trump seeks to put him in charge of a system affecting millions of lives.”

The IHS reaches up to 3.7 million people in 36 states, and as of April operates 26 hospitals, 59 health centers, 32 health stations and coordinates with thirty-three urban Indian health projects.

Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Indian Affairs Committee that must approve the nominee, emailed CNBC to tell them that “Weaver’s responses on the Committee’s formal questionnaire, has answers to my questions in person, and the Wall Street Journal article raises a number of very serious concerns for me.”

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Indianz.com reported when Weaver was appointed in early October that Indian tribal leaders were very concerned about “long-standing management and quality of care issues.”

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“Despite numerous warnings,” adds Indianz.com, “including an investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs nearly a decade ago, a slew of hospitals in Nebraska and South Dakota were sanctioned in the last two years.”

There have been four temporary heads of the IHS since an Obama appointee left two years ago – including two since Trump became president –  which has only added to the problems, say Indian leaders.

Trump hasn’t helped the situation with his indifference to the Native Americans concerns only interrupted by his insults, as when he used a slur and called Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) “Pocahontas” at a meeting to honor Navajo code talkers. 

The Native Americans were also upset when Trump ignored the Indians and shrank a national monument in Utah to appease commercial mining and oil interests, ignoring the Native Americans concerns about how it would be a sacrilege to thousands of acres of historic land the Indians consider sacred. 

There has also been Native American concern about the abrupt exit of Tom Price as head of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the IHS after he admitted to spending excessively on air travel and in other ways.

While the IHS is to get $3.8 billion in Trump’s 2018 budget, tribal leaders say it would require at least $7 billion to do the job properly.

Now the ultimate insult may be that Weaver turns out to have lied about his qualifications. 

On his resume, reports The Wall Street Journal, Weaver claimed to have had “supervisory and management positions” at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri when he worked there between 1997 and 2006.

However, the Journal found evidence “that considerably contradicts Weaver.”

Former officials at the hospital told the Journal he had an “entry level” position, and Augusto Noronha, who was the chief financial officer at the time, said, “I don’t recall that name whatsoever.”

Wayne Noethe, a former controller at the hospital, also said he had never heard of Weaver. Another former executive said there recalled Weaver as “a subordinate who registered emergency room patients and gathered insurance information.”

Several others who worked there also said they did not recall Weaver, including Diane Sadler, an accounting manager who said in her 17 years there she never met him. “I’m sure I would have remembered the last name Weaver,” she added, “because that was my grandmother’s last name.”

Weaver had told Senator Udall that his management role involved oversight of 85 to 100 staffers, but a financial services director at the hospital said there were only 35 people in that department, and Weaver may have supervised a portion of them for a time. 

Udall’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Talhelm, told the Journal Weaver could not even remember his title at the hospital. 

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Weaver appears to be the latest in a long list of unqualified and questionable candidates put forth by the Trump administration. Several of Trump’s judicial nominees had to step aside after it was determined they lacked experience as judges and were ignorant of key elements of the law.

“In Weaver,” writes Shareblue, “there is the toxic brew of a Trump nominee who inflated his resume and has been caught doing so, combined with Trump’s bigoted chain of events toward Native Americans. Millions of lives hang in the balance – but Trump just doesn’t care.”

So far Trump’s HHS is standing by Weaver but the concern among Senators could still see his appointment fold like a soggy teepee.

Instead of looking for the best people, Trump seems to look for those who are loyal to him and the Republicans, and those who will most easy to manipulate.

In this case, there literally are lives at stake as Native Americans and Native Alaskans have to depend on the IHS at times that they face life or death, and having an agency that is underfunded, badly run and ill-equipped is only going to make matters worse. 

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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