Target 8: VA's deadly misdiagnosis leaves family distraught

(WFLA) - Navy veteran Lonnie Kilpatrick is too sick, weak and in too much pain to get out of bed.

For the last four years, the VA at Bay Pines said herniated discs and osteoarthritis caused his back pain.

"They missed the cancer," said Lonnie's wife, Sheila. 

The Kilpatricks recently learned Lonnie has stage 4 renal cell cancer.

"I went from having osteoarthritis to having metastasized bone cancer all over my body, how the hell do you do that, you know?" asked a frustrated Lonnie.

"He saw every doctor they sent him to, how did they miss that?" asked Lonnie's daughter Keri Ackerson, a nurse case manager.

Lonnie received a heart transplant in 2010. The VA also found what it called a cyst on his kidney. It was no cyst.

"The cancer was there in 2010," said Sheila.

Lonnie underwent surgery at Bay Pines in 2014.

"The guy told me I was cancer free, that there was no signs of active cancer," explained Lonnie.

But his back pain persisted.

"Couldn't even stand. Hunched over, I'm walking looking at the floor," he said.

Records show Lonnie called Bay Pines repeatedly about his pain.

"He should have been getting CT scans to make sure it hadn't metastasized," stated Keri.

He was given no CT scans.

"They kept giving him hydrocodone," said Sheila.

By January, Lonnie had lost 40 pounds.

The VA doctor ordered a CT scan.

"They wanted a CT scan that they called 'stat.' They scheduled it for three weeks out," added Sheila.

"A 'stat' CT scan means today or tomorrow," explained Keri.

When Sheila complained, a VA staff member told her if she thought she could find better treatment elsewhere, then go.

That's what she needed to hear. Sheila took Lonnie to Florida Hospital.

"They came back and said, 'he's got cancer and it's everywhere,'" said Keri.

"Lonnie even said to me the other day, he said, 'they signed my death certificate. The VA signed my death certificate by not treating me for cancer, for not checking me,'" stated Sheila.

"You know you're going to lose him and that could have been prevented if the VA had followed up," said Keri.

To add insult to injury, the family states the VA has fought the Kilpatricks every step of the way paying for Lonnie's diagnosis and treatment outside of Bay Pines.

We are working with some folks to see if we can help the family receive VA disability benefits for which Lonnie may qualify.

If you have something that you think should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at

Follow Steve Andrews on Facebook


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