It's unlikely you'll be eligible for disability while you're having chemotherapy treatments for testicular cancer, but it's possible, depending on a number of factors. Types of testicular cancer include seminomas, carcinomas, teratomas, and adenocarcinomas.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will make sure you are not making more than $1,040 per month (in 2013), that any disability would last at least a year, and that your cancer treatment is causing more than a minimal interference in your ability to work. If you cannot prove that your illness meets these initial requirements, your claim for disability will be given a technical denial.
It may be difficult to be approved for disability based solely on chemo treatments for testicular cancer because of the time requirement. Often, the negative side effects of chemo are temporary and fluctuate over the course of treatment; therefore it may be hard to prove the side effects will last at least 12 months.
Many people are able to undergo chemo treatment and continue working, but for some, the fatigue and nausea can prevent them from working. The SSA will consider whether the side effects of chemo are disabling enough to keep you from working; see "Long-Term Side Effects of Chemo," below.
Most men who suffer from testicular cancer have to have the cancerous testicle removed (orchiectomy) in addition to chemotherapy or radiation. The SSA does not consider there to be any severe work-related functional limitations from removal of one or both testicles.
Delayed Disability Determination
If your cancer has not spread beyond your testicles, you must complete your chemotherapy before the SSA will make a decision about your disability claim. Even if your cancer has spread beyond your testicles (metastasized) but your doctor thinks the cancer will respond well to chemo treatment, the SSA will require that you complete the chemo to see if the treatment is successful before it will decide your claim.
Long-Term Side Effects of Chemo
It is rare for the side effects of chemo to last longer than a year, and to be so limiting for more than a year that a person can't work. But occasionally, chemotherapy causes long-term side effects that last longer than a year. In these situations, the SSA must determine whether you are still able to do your old job despite the side effects from your treatment. For example, if you suffer from severe fatigue that requires frequent unscheduled breaks during the day, you may not be able to do your old job. Your doctor should also describe any limits you have on your ability to focus on your job, finish your job on time, do tasks that require multi-tasking, and keep up with your assignments. If you can prove that your productivity is reduced by 20% because of your chemo treatment, you may be approved for disability.
If the SSA decides that the side effects of the chemo treatment don’t prevent you from doing your old job, your claim will be denied. However, if the SSA decides that your chemo treatment for testicular cancer prevents you from doing your past work, it will then determine if there is other work you can do. To make this determination the SSA will consider your age, education, past work experience, and the documented work-related limitations that result from your chemo treatments.
Metastatic or Recurrent Testicular Cancer
If this is your second round of chemotherapy, the rules are a bit different. If your testicular cancer has metastasized to other parts of your body, and it progresses or comes back (recurs) after an initial round of chemotherapy, you will qualify for disability benefits under the SSA's official disability listing for testicular cancer.
If your cancer metastasized but is not considered progressive or recurrent, you wouldn't qualify for disability benefits under the listing, but your impairments would be considered under the listing for the body part that the cancer spread to.
Penis cancer (penile carcinoma) is treated similarly by the SSA; only if it has metastasized is it likely to make you automatically eligible for disability benefits. And the SSA doesn't usually consider there to be any work-related functional limitations associated with penile cancer, so unless it has metastasized, getting disability benefits is quite unlikely.
Learn more about getting benefits for chemo side effects and other finer points of when cancer qualifies for disability benefits.