Unemployment Benefits During Cancer Treatment

by Michaele Curtis; Updated September 26, 2017

Your state labor office requires unemployment insurance claimants to prove eligibility to receive benefits. Essentially, these benefits are paid under the assumption that you're ready, willing and able to work, and are intended to help tide you over during your job search. If your cancer treatment prevents you from seeking or accepting a new job, you'll likely be denied unemployment insurance benefits.

Reason for Job Separation

To collect unemployment benefits, you must be unemployed because of something attributable to your employer instead of you. So, if your employer let you go because your treatment makes it impossible for you to perform the duties of the job, you'll probably be declared ineligible for benefits. On the other hand, if your employer let you go because of lack of work, you meet the qualification.

Ability to Work

Even if you're unemployed because of an issue attributable to your former employer, you can generally only collect unemployment benefits if you're physically able to work. Now, what that means depends on your employment skills. If you’re a construction worker, you may be too ill to work during cancer treatment and physically unable to perform your trade. However, if you are a copywriter, your cancer treatments might not interfere with your ability to do that work.

Availability for Work

Although many claimants confuse the two, ability to work and availability are separate eligibility requirements. Your cancer treatments may require you to be unavailable to work due to anything from long chemotherapy sessions to frequent doctor’s appointments. So, while you may still be able to perform work reasonably, you may be unavailable to work due to previously scheduled medical appointments. In most states, you must be available to work full-time hours, so if your chemotherapy and other elements of your treatment prevent you from meeting this qualification, you may be considered ineligible.

Proving Your Eligibility

When you first apply for benefits, the state labor office will ask questions to determine your eligibility. If its review of your circumstances calls your eligibility into question, you may have to provide evidence that you are eligible. For example, your former employer will be contacted to verify the job separation reason; if his response is that you left because of your illness, you’d have to submit information that contradicts that, such as a witness statement or memo. If your availability or ability to work is called into question, you might submit a statement from your doctor supporting your claim.

About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.