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James N. Ellenberger

Workers’ Compensation Distinguished Honoree - The Academy at 25: Celebrating Milestones and Envisioning the Future of Social Insurance

James N. Ellenberger is President of the AFL-CIO Retirees Association.  He is highly respected by both labor and management for his continuous efforts to bring about group discussions focusing on collective issues.  Ellenberger is a social insurance expert, active in both workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

His time at AFL-CIO stretches over 30 years, in which he worked primarily with national unions and state labor councils on safety and health and treatment for injured workers.  Ellenberger’s experience has also meant that he has been called upon to testify before Congressional committees and state legislatures.  He was among the key proponents of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act signed into law by President Clinton in 2000.  This law provides compensation and medical treatment for civilian workers who became ill due to their exposure to radiation and other dangerous substances in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.  Since his retirement, Ellenberger has served as a consultant to unions and other organizations.  In 2005, he was elected as President of the AFL-CIO Retirees Association.

Appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission by then-Governor Mark Warner in 2002, he worked with leaders in the state legislature to enact improvements in unemployment insurance law in the Commonwealth.  In 2006, he was appointed to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s Health Reform Commission and participated in their Long Term Care Working Group.

Ellenberger has committed himself to social insurance topics through his extensive involvement in advisory boards and committees, as well as his published works in newsletters, journals and annual publications.  Ellenberger is one of the founding members of the National Academy of Social Insurance.  He has remained an active member, having served on the Academy’s Membership Committee and Disability Policy Panel.  He is currently a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and the ongoing study panel on National Data on Workers’ Compensation.  A distinguished graduate of the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, he served with the Army in Vietnam; he returned to Vietnam as a faculty member for the Academy's unemployment project with the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor in 2002.

Ellenberger is credited with guiding the efforts to protect workers with his immediate understanding of legislative proposals and his knowledge of other state’s experiences and laws regarding the same subjects.  Academy Board member, Christine Baker, chief deputy director and acting director of Industrial Relations in California state government explains that “Jim’s dedication and commitment to advocating for good workers’ compensation policy has continuously moved the issue into the national spotlight.”

When not working on a health care or pension issue on behalf of one of his members, Jim is writing a novel in collaboration with his long-time squash buddies, a murder mystery that has nothing to do with workers’ compensation!

Ellenberger was recognized as the distinguished honoree for workers’ compensation at the Academy's 25th anniversary celebration held on June 8, 2011 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, DC.