'The VA definitely let me down': Army veteran dies after battle with cancer

VA prescribed opioids, acid reflux medicine before treating vet's cancer

SAN ANTONIOUpdated Jan. 6, 2018: Kenneth Gould's daughter said Kenneth "passed away on Jan. 5 from his battle with cancer."


An Army veteran says his esophageal cancer went undiagnosed at three separate Veterans Affairs medical facilities after doctors instead focused on his past drug use.

Retired Army Spec. Kenneth Gould, 50, has stage IV esophageal cancer, according to VA medical records he provided to The Defenders earlier this year.

The records show Gould was prescribed acid reflux medicine and opioid painkillers despite telling VA doctors he was having difficulty swallowing, was vomiting and was suffering from abdominal pain for several months.

"The VA definitely let me down. I mean, no one listened to me," said Gould, who added that his service included a tour of duty in Iraq.

"I got told, 'There's nothing wrong with you,'" said Gould.

Gould's records show he began using methamphetamine as a "coping mechanism" while dealing with family issues several years ago, at one point spending between $50-$100 a day on illegal drugs.

However, the same records show Gould had drastically tapered his drug use when he began experiencing pain while trying to swallow last fall.

Gould said he eventually sought treatment at Northeast Baptist Hospital, where doctors made the cancer diagnosis.

Records show VA doctors are now treating Gould's cancer.

Esophageal cancer, which affects the hollow tube running between the throat and stomach, is four times more common in men, according to the American Cancer Society.

VA officials originally agreed to speak about Gould's treatment at its facilities.

However, officials later declined to participate in an on-camera interview, citing the sensitivity of patient information.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.