Federal legislation passed in 1996 in the United States changed the eligibility criteria for public disability benefit programmes. After 1996, persons with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse no longer qualified to receive disability benefits. Using a framework of social construction, a qualitative comparative analysis examines how the national disability systems of eight countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the US - address issues of substance abuse. The US is the only country among the focal countries that does not currently allow disability benefits to be awarded to those with primary conditions of substance use disorders. International experience in providing disability benefits to persons with substance use disorders can inform US policy makers as to how the current US federal disability benefit system might be expanded to be more inclusive of persons with substance abuse disorders.