The ilioinguinal (illy-oh-IN-gwin-al) nerve is a branch of your lower spinal cord, next to the genitofemoral nerve, that runs down your side into your hips, pelvis, and upper thighs. When the ilioinguinal nerve is damaged—often caused by surgery such as hernia repair—pain can result in your abdomen and groin. Doctors call this type of pain ilioinguinal neuralgia.
While some temporary pain is usually expected during recovery from surgery, damage to the ilioinguinal nerve can cause permanent, chronic pain that can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks and work full-time. If your ilioinguinal neuralgia has prevented you from working for at least one year, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Because the ilioinguinal nerve is located in your lower back, damage to the nerve can affect your hips, legs, and feet, limiting how long you're able to sit, stand, and walk without pain. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits for people whose ilioinguinal neuralgia prevents them from sitting, standing, or walking long enough to work full-time.
Social Security has a list of conditions that the agency considers severe enough to find you disabled "automatically" if your application contains certain specific medical evidence. These conditions are called "listed impairments," or just "listings," and meeting or equaling the criteria of a listing is the fastest—but the most difficult—way to qualify for benefits.
Ilioinguinal neuralgia doesn't have its own entry in the Blue Book of listed impairments, but if your medical record contains evidence of ilioinguinal neuralgia, the SSA will evaluate your application under Listing 1.15 for disorders that cause your spine to press on your nerves.
To meet (or equal) the requirements of Listing 1.15, you'll need to have medical imaging, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, showing that part of your spine is interfering with your ilioinguinal nerve's ability to send signals to your hips or lower extremities. If you have a spinal disorder such as slipped discs or degeneration, your doctor should provide you with the imaging used to make the diagnosis.
Few disability applicants ("claimants") are able to meet the strict requirements for medical disability. More commonly, claimants qualify for benefits when they can show that no jobs exist that they can perform with their residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the most you're capable of doing, physically and mentally, in a work environment.
For claimants with ilioinguinal neuralgia, a typical RFC will include restrictions on the length of time they can spend sitting, standing, and walking on a job, as well as the amount of weight they can lift and carry. Your doctor might give you additional limitations as well, including postural restrictions—such as needing to lie down or recline to ease pain—and mental restrictions (if your pain is clouding your thinking).
Social Security will look at your RFC and compare it with the demands of your past jobs to determine if you're capable of performing your past relevant work. If the SSA decides that you can no longer do your past work, the agency will then determine whether you can perform any other jobs given your age, education, and work experience.
Whether you're ultimately found disabled medically or vocationally, your application for disability benefits will depend on whether you have sufficient medical evidence to support your claim. Make sure that you keep the SSA in the loop with the names, dates, and locations of any medical providers you've seen for your ilioinguinal neuralgia (and any other conditions).
Because subjective pain is a large factor in diagnosing ilioinguinal neuralgia, Social Security will want to see that you've consistently been seeing a doctor for any objective tests or examinations. The agency will obtain and review progress notes from your doctors, looking for indicators of pain such as having a reduced range of motion in your hips and legs. Your progress notes should contain any prescription medications you use to treat your pain.
Social Security values the opinions of doctors who are familiar with your condition and can shed light on how it can limit your functioning, so you can strengthen your claim if you're able to provide supportive medical source statements from your regular doctors. If your doctors agree to write a medical source statement, ask them to point to specific examples in your medical record—such as a physical examination or nerve conduction study—to explain how they arrived at their opinion.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) is another government agency that can provide disability benefits for veterans with ilioinguinal neuralgia or nerve damage. While Social Security disability is "total," meaning the agency thinks either you're disabled or you're not, the VA uses a percentage rating system that's based on the degree your nerve damage was related to your time on active duty (a "service-connected disability").
For more information about the different disability systems, see our article on what veterans should know about applying for Social Security.
Updated September 23, 2022