Why is my SD card disrupting my phones functions?

In the past 2 weeks, BOTH of our Note 3's have begun to behave erratically (random reboots, locking up, slow processing of commands, randomly dismounting SD card, apps (including Settings) frequently stopped working, widgets lock up, etc). We have had these phones for about 6 months, without any issues until recently.

I have been reading numerous forums and articles, and have read that many of the problems are with Android not supporting external memory cards, so I unmounted mine. I tried to open some of the apps that were supposedly on my 16 MB Samsung SD card, and was totally surprised to see that I can access them and use them without the SD card installed, and in many cases the data is also on the phone instead of the SD card. However, my photos and other data that I want to store on the SD card is, of course, not available.

Why would the SD cards suddenly become a problem? It is highly unlikely that both cards would go bad at the same time, so I'm wondering if there was a software update that was automatically installed that resulted in this occurrence, and if there could be a software fix that would at LEAST allow me to store files, if not apps, on external storage media. I do use Google Drive, but don't want to put my whole life on it. Also, why are so many of my apps listed as on the SD card, when they are actually on the phone?

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