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What is a registry? VA offers a registry for you

Agent Orange Newsletter: Information for Vietnam-era Veterans and their families.

VA’s Post Deployment Health Services (PDHS) oversees six exposure registries, also called Environmental Health Registries. A registry is defined as a system for collecting and maintaining, in a structured record, data on specific persons from a defined population, which allows for preliminary research analyses and reviews.

Two broad categories of health registries are disease-based registries and exposure-based registries. A disease-based registry organizes data based on the cases of a specific disease or condition, while an exposure registry organizes data based on people who have had a common exposure. For example, a disease-based registry would focus on cases of multiple sclerosis or cancer, while the registry for the World Trade Center 9/11 workers is an exposure registry.

Veterans with service in Vietnam between 1962-1975 may be eligible for the Agent Orange Registry. This includes Brown Water Navy Veterans who served aboard patrol boats that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam, Blue Water Navy Veterans who served on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, and certain Veterans who served in Korea or Thailand.

Depending on the time and location of service, Veterans may be eligible for other exposure registries, including:

The Agent Orange Registry, Ionizing Radiation Registry, Depleted Uranium Follow-Up Program, and Toxic Embedded Fragment Surveillance Center are for specific exposures, while the Gulf War Registry and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry address a broad spectrum of exposures. For example, airborne hazards-related illnesses can be caused by local air pollution, blowing dust from the desert environment, or smoke from burn pits.

Registries have several advantages. Participants who join and give their contact information provide a way for VA to reach them with updates. Registries can also be tools for surveillance. Individuals within the registry can be tracked and monitored for health trends within the group. Registries can also generate ideas (hypotheses) for research on associations between exposures and disease.

Self-reported registries, however, have limitations. They are subject to recall bias (misremembering), as the deployment events may have happened several years ago. Self-reported registries also tend to be self-selecting, meaning certain people may be more motivated to participate than others. For example, those with significant health issues may be more likely to participate compared those who consider themselves healthy; therefore, the registry data may not represent the actual health of the population. Also, registry information can be used in research studies but are not usually studies in themselves. Finally, participation in a registry does not suffice for a compensation and pension examination and is not required to submit a compensation claim.

Veterans who are interested in joining a registry should contact their local Environmental Health Coordinator. Find more information about registries from VA’s PDHS.


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