The deficit commission offered a vague proposal for a hardship exemption to accommodate those in a financial squeeze like Love. Hardship exemptions veer into the territory of means-testing, as in welfare programs. Presumably those applying would have to show that they really need their benefits early. That sounds like the tough tests that people face when they now apply for Social Security disability benefits. Some experts say that that new applicants could make the current three-year claims backlog even larger.

“Social Security is not a welfare program,” Love said. “It’s a little nest egg that you planned on. It’s like a pot at the end of the rainbow, so to speak. They should leave Social Security alone. You paid into it. It’s yours at sixty-two.”

For more from Trudy Lieberman on Social Security and entitlement reform, click here.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.